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BOSS van delivers servicemembers safely

David Poe Spc. Tom Brandon, a Soldier from 17th Fires Bde., volunteers his time at JBLM Photo by David Poe

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Sam and his older brother, Spc. Tom Brandon, a Soldier with 17th Fires Brigade, rode together in the Joint Base Lewis-McChord Better Opportunities for Single Servicemembers van the evening of Jan. 27.

Whether it was barracks-to-barracks, trips to the Express, or getting fellow troops home from a night of fun at one of many of JBLM's leisure spots, Tom drove and in a way, Sam rode with him last week, even though Sam has been dead for more than three years.

"That was right after high school," the elder Brandon said of the no-fault 2008 automobile accident that cost Sam his life. "Both cars lost control. All of that is why I volunteer to do this."

Brandon is one of a dozen BOSS troops who regularly volunteers to shuttle installation passengers in need of a designated driver from 9 p.m. to 3 a.m.

Friday and Saturday evenings, as well as any evening that precedes a training holiday at JBLM.

Specialist Monique Miranda, a Soldier from JBLM's garrison headquarters and president of the Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation BOSS program, said existence of the service doesn't condone over-indulgence, yet doesn't shy away from being a safety net if potential riders find themselves in precarious situations.

"A lot of alcohol-related incidents happen between the barracks and (The Expresses) so I think what we're doing is a good thing, but we are a backup plan," Miranda said. "We want servicemembers to have their own designated drivers and have a plan, but reality is sometimes situations arise and we're here to back them up."

For Brandon, driving the van is not only a way to help others, but also to "pay it forward" in thanks for those who've been there for him.

"I've been in the same situation that the first person that calls us tonight is probably in right now," Brandon said, who PCS'd to JBLM from Korea's Camp Stanley last year. "He's going to make the decision on whether he's going to accept this ride or is he going to chance it."

Miranda said she felt fewer JBLM troops would "chance it" if they knew their privacy in using the service would be upheld.

"We don't ask your rank, your name, or your unit," Miranda said. "Your sergeant major or your NCO isn't going to find out; we just want to help get you where you want to go."

She added that continuing to make the BOSS van service a reality is a product of more people than just BOSS troops themselves.

"The biggest supporters of that van have been Command Sergeant Major (Matthew) Barnes and Colonel (Thomas) Brittain," she said, speaking of JBLM Garrison's command sergeant major and commander respectively. "FMWR and their Sponsorship Office have also done some really great things for us."

Though he didn't lose his brother in an alcohol-related incident, his death was no less tragic. Tom couldn't stop it, but with help from FMWR and JBLM leadership, BOSS troops have a van and a will to help all of the other Sams of the world who would be missed if they were gone.

"For me it's not about the volunteer hours (which can earn promotion points,) it's about being able to help someone... it's about being able to prevent something from happening," he said. "I think it was Andrew Carnegie that said if you have the ability to help someone, you have the responsibility to help someone ... period."

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