Prior to SOAR XXIX, in 2005, SOA member Mark Kinsler,
SOA # 700GL, recommended to the SOA Board of Directors that the SOA
establish a fund that would assist SOA members who had come upon hard times
attend an annual SOAR. The consideration was especially for those who had
never attended a SOAR or had not been able to do so for a long period of
time. When the recommendation was approved by the SOA Board, Directors Tom
Waskovich and John Meyer formed Operation Brightlight committee. During the
secret war in Vietnam, when a Hatchet Force, Recon Team or a downed pilot
were in trouble, a SOG Brightlight team was formed and inserted into the
target area to find, locate, assist and exfiltrate them from the area of
operation. It was by far, the most hazardous of all duty in SOG. Thus, when
an element of SOG troops was in trouble, a Brightlight team came to its aid,
hence the genesis of the mission statement for Operation Brightlight in
2005. SOA member and former SF Medic John Thomas Walton was among the first
to contribute to the SOA’s Operation Brightlight.
The mission statement for Operation Brightlight is simple: to help bring any SOA member to SOAR who, due to fiscal exigencies, wouldn’t be able to otherwise attend the reunion. The SOA spread the word to its membership about Operation Brightlight. In 2005, Waskovich and Meyer telephoned more than 125 SOA members searching for potential Brightlight candidates. Several potential candidates were interviewed before two candidates were selected: thanks to the generous donations of SOA members, including Walton’s $1,000 contribution, both SOG warriors attended SOAR XXIX free of charge. For SOAR XXX, six SOA members were selected as recipients of Operation Brightlight stipends, thanks to the generosity of SOA members. For SOAR XXXI, SOA Director Rick Grabianowski joined the Operation Brightlight subcommittee of SOA and SOA member Joe Conlon has donated an SOA Commemorative Pistol to be raffled off during SOAR XXXI with receipts going to Operation Brightlight and the SOA Scholarship Committee. SOG memorabilia collector Jason Hardy has obtained several airline tickets for Operation Brightlight candidates.
If anyone has a Brightlight candidate or would like to make a contribution, please contact SOA directors Waskovich, Grabianowski, or Meyer.