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McDowells friends carry on fundraiser for veterans

Sgt. McDowell's nonprofit Military Relief will host spaghetti dinner

Before his high-profile death in January, Anthony 'Sarge' McDowell was organizing a spaghetti dinner fundraiser for the local Veterans of Foreign War post to take place over Memorial Day weekend.

Now, some like-minded citizens are making sure his plans are carried out.

The dinner is set for 4 to 9 p.m. Saturday, May 28, at the Gresham Armory at 544 N.E. Division Street.

'You caught me doing cartwheels,' says Rebecca Miller, who is helping organize the event as part of McDowell's nonprofit organization - SMMR of Oregon, or Sergeant McDowell's Military Relief. Miller just got off the phone with Safeway off Northeast 181st Avenue and Halsey Street, which agreed to a make a sizable food donation for the event.

With nearly every ingredient of the dinner being donated, Miller is hoping the event generates a lot of money to benefit Gresham VFW Post No. 180.

'I'm glad the event is still happening,' said Val Shaull, Gresham VFW Post. 'After Sarge's death, our post voted to give the money made on the dinner to Sarge's wife. After all, that's why we raise money - to help veterans and their families.'

McDowell, a 50-year-old U.S. Army sergeant and an Iraq War veteran, was suicidal and suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder when two Gresham police officers fatally shot him in front of his house in the 24000 block of Southeast Oak Street on Jan. 31.

He was armed with a high-powered rifle when he walked out of his house. He reportedly didn't comply with officer commands that he drop the weapon.

His wife, Teresa, their 13-year-old daughter and his sister-in-law were at the scene when the shooting took place. McDowell's family disputed the police's version of events and thought police should have given him more time to comply. Some relatives also wondered if hearing damage from his military service might have prevented him from hearing police commands.

News of the shooting shocked those who knew him, in part because he was so dedicated to helping military veterans overcome the same challenges he was facing.

He organized barbecues and parties for deploying soldiers, bought Christmas gifts for loved ones left behind, sent Christmas cards to deployed soldiers and even organized a benefit to help make a disabled soldier home wheelchair accessible.

'It's amazing how much this one man did,' said Miller, whose husband, James, also served in the Tualatin-based 671st Engineer Company with McDowell. 'We want to keep his memory alive.'

She also hopes the fundraiser is a reminder to McDowell's family that the community hasn't forgotten them or their grief.

'We're here for you, we're thinking about you,' she said.

Representative from McDowell's charity also will be on hand to sign up new members in the hopes of applying for grants to fund the organization's mission.

'His goal was to provide help to our veterans in need and their families,' Miller said of McDowell's military relief organization. 'He didn't reach out to the community for money. He reached into his own pocket.'

Grant money would create a more stable funding stream, allowing the organization to better carry out its mission - helping veterans and their families.

'There are so many who are just lost,' Miller said of the veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. 'They don't know where to go for help. There are so many coming back who are damaged, not just physically but mentally.'

If you go

What: Spaghetti Dinner Fundraiser

When: 4-9 p.m. Saturday, May 28

Where: Gresham Armory, 544 N.E. Division St., Gresham

Why: A fundraiser for the Gresham VFW Post No. 180 that Anthony 'Sarge' McDowell was organizing before he was shot and killed by Gresham police on Jan. 31, after he emerged from his home armed with a high-powered rifle. Proceeds will benefit McDowell's family. Members of the nonprofit organization he founded to help military veterans and their families - SMMR of Oregon, or Sergeant McDowell's Military Relief - will be on hand to sign up new members. In addition to carrying out the fundraiser Sarge was organizing before his death, they hope to grow the nonprofit organization by applying for grants and other funding.

Cost: $6 adult, $4 child

Details: Event includes live music from Tony Rio and prize drawings. To donate cash or supplies to the fundraiser, or to donate to SMMR, log on to smmroregon.com.

Veterans Day events

• 4 to 9 p.m. Saturday, May 28 - A spaghetti dinner fundraiser for the Gresham United Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post No. 180, Gresham Armory, 544 N.E. Division St., Gresham.

• noon to 5 p.m. Sunday, May 29 - The American Legion Post 30 in Gresham is hosting a spaghetti fundraiser at 150 W. Powell Blvd. The meal includes bread, salad and dessert. It's $7 for adults, $5 for ages 5-12 and free for ages 4 and younger. Proceeds will go to help military veterans and personnel. In addition, the legion will be selling poppies, made by disabled veterans, at the dinner and at various locations around East County for $1 each. Call post Commander Leon Merriman at 503-481-7172 for more information.

• 9 a.m. Monday, May 30 - The Gresham United Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post No. 180 is paying tribute to our fallen soldiers at Forest Lawn Cemetery, 400 S.W. Walters Road, Gresham.

• 11 a.m. Monday, May 30 - Post 180 is hosting a Memorial Day Service at the Heroes Memorial at the southwest corner of Powell Boulevard and Robert Avenue. Val Shaull, Gresham VFW Post No. 180 commander, is guest speaker.