Siskiyou County's Home Guard, Army of Hope
By Gary VanDeWalker
On the Home FrontOctober 2015
By Gary Vandewalker
Being raised an Army brat is a rare character quality to head a resume. For Dan Dorsey, one of six children born on Army bases from Europe to Alaska, this experience provided him the drive and intuition to make a difference in the lives of military families in Siskiyou County.
Dorsey’s parents left military life to settle into Northern California. In his junior year at Anderson High School, Dorsey applied to work for the Forestry Service. “It was that rare time when they were still hiring 17-year-olds,” he says.
His childhood background among the military created a drive for distinguished service in fire service, where he became a captain, serving throughout California overseeing engines, medical services and helicopter management. “I directed firefighters from the left seat of a helicopter high above the forest,” he says.
Making Mount Shasta his home base, he returned time and again to his wife, Sue, until retiring from his career. But Dorsey found himself unable to watch his world pass by without him.
“I heard the local National Guard, the 132nd, were being deployed to Afghanistan,” Dorsey says. “I knew people wanted to give hams and turkeys to the families for the holidays, but remembering my own upbringing, they needed so much more.”
Dorsey spoke to the unit’s staff sergeant, Joseph Hatten. He learned the soldiers’ main concern was that their families were being cared for, while a package from home while overseas would be nice. From here the Home Guard formed.
Under Dorsey’s command, the Home Guard began to assemble a brigade of volunteers. When a deployed soldier’s family needed help, a list of plumbers, electricians, babysitters and snow removal volunteers stood ready to come into action. When a volunteer was unable to provide the service, there was a list of contractors who would give the families their help at a discount. Each soldier possessed a Home Guard contact card and could ask for someone to deliver flowers or a gift for a special occasion.
In all, 150 volunteers and 30 organizations joined the Guard. Care packages were customized for each soldier. A Christmas card campaign showered local troops with wishes from the county. Boxes filled with gummy bears, beef jerky and a stray cigar made their way to the battleground on the other side of the world. Throughout the 132nd’s deployment, care packages arrived each month. When Dorsey heard the soldiers had no California flag to fly, he arranged for several to be shipped in a box full of flags and jelly beans. Firewood was delivered to a soldier’s mother. For their last Christmas, Dorsey arranged the presence of two real Christmas trees. Then the Home Guard sponsored a homecoming, welcoming the soldiers home.
Last year, Dorsey was selected by Northland Cable as the winner of their Hometown Hero contest. He divided the cash prize among the Home Guard, the Boy Scouts and the Girl Scouts.
His service never stops. He can found painting a flagpole or organizing local Scout troops putting flags on veterans’ graves for the holidays. He coordinates a free annual dinner for veterans through the Elks Lodge. The Home Guard has transformed into the Home Guard, Army of Hope, still serving deployed soldiers from Siskiyou County. Dorsey now focuses on working with veterans.
“I still watch our firefighters and so much want to be in that mix, “Dorsey says. “I have a different calling now, a simpler one. Helping neighbors help neighbors, that’s what the Home Guard is all about.”