Special Reports

Barber brush drive to help U.S. troops

One in an occasional series

Tom Streck saw a photo of crossed red swords against a blue background at a Lakewood Ranch barber shop and did a double take.

He recognized it as the emblem of the U.S. Army's 10th Mountain Division light cavalry at Fort Drum, N.Y., an emblem worn by his father and cousin.

When he asked Lynn Rainwater, owner of the Barbary Shoppe, about the emblem, he learned that her son-in-law is serving with the 10th in Iraq.

"He says nothing flicks sand out of his firearm better than a boar's hair shaving brush," Rainwater told Streck.

"We're sending brushes and a card to all soldiers in the 10th in Iraq for every $5 donation," Rainwater said.

Streck immediately threw $10 on the counter. He also wrote notes to go with the brushes to two soldiers he has never met.

"I think this is great," Streck said of the idea of sending shaving brushes to Iraq to eliminate sand in weapons. "There is so much negative news out of Iraq that we have forgotten about the people over there fighting for us. They are all heroes."

Rainwater has collected 45 brushes so far and hopes to make a shipment to her son-in-law at the end of February.

The $5 covers her wholesale cost for the brush, she said.

Her goal is one brush for each of the roughly 100 soldiers in the company.

The idea for sending brushes to Iraq started soon after Rainwater's son-in-law, Pfc. Nathan Lawson, who married Rainwater's daughter, Shannon, returned to his 10th Division with one of the Shoppe's boar's hair shaving brushes.

Lawson speculated that with its long, firm bristles, the brush would flick sand out from the crevices of his weapon better than any official cleaner, Rainwater said.

His assumptions were correct, Rainwater said.

"We got a picture from him in December cleaning his weapon and he praised the brush, saying it was just stiff enough to carve around the metal, but not too stiff," Rainwater said. "I have since heard that Vietnam vets also knew the secret of the shaving brush and many kept theirs after the war."

The brush donation was emotional for Streck.

"It means a lot to me because of my two connections to the 10th," Streck said. "My dad was in the 10th Mountain Division and fought in the Italian Alps during World War II. He was in the Battle of Po River Valley and fought with Bob Dole. They came under fire while working on a bridge. My dad won the Bronze Star."

Streck's cousin, Doug Ritchie of Safety Harbor, has done two tours in Afghanistan with the 10th Mountain Division and is now headed for Iraq, Streck said.

Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at rdymond@Bradenton.com or 708-7917.

How to help

For a $5 donation, Barbary Shoppe of Lakewood Ranch will send one boar's hair shaving brush "Operation Eliminate Sand." Donations: Barbary Shoppe, 8111 Lakewood Main Street, Suite 104, Lakewood Ranch 34202. Information: 907-6068.