WATERLOO --- Kandie and Brad Vaughn have been supporting veterans and their families since losing a loved one in Afghanistan in 2007. Now, a new initiative has taken on special meaning.
Kandie and her organization, Kandies Kidz, which supports military families, is raffling a customized "Fallen Soldier Tribute" motorcycle, decked out with military insignia and tributes to lost and missing military members.
The bike was offered to Kandie for fundraising by a man whose cousin investigated the helicopter crash in which Kandie's stepson, and Brad's son, U.S. Army Spc. Travis Vaughn, was killed.
The motorcycle is the product of Shelbyville, Ill., designer Steve Koontz. His cousin, Todd Koontz, was a member of Travis Vaughn's outfit, the U.S. Army 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment --- the "Night Stalkers" --- based out of Fort Campbell, Ky.
Not only did Todd know Travis Vaughn, Koontz was assigned to investigate the crash in which Vaughn was killed.
"Kind of a small world," Brad said.
Kandie and Brad met Steve Koontz while on a spring vacation. He offered to design the bike and mentioned the Night Stalkers connection within his own family.
Steve arranged for his cousin Todd to meet with the Vaughns to answer any questions about Travis' death. After that, "the bike was secondary," Kandie said.
The meeting "answered some questions," Brad and Kandie had about circumstances surrounding Travis' death.
"Basically, they were on a mission to go get al-Qaida, but they canceled the mission" after the crash, Brad said. "The weather just changed too quickly. Over there in Afghanistan, I guess the weather does that."
Brad said he and Kandie wondered for years whether the crash resulted from an enemy attack. "But Todd answered that," he said.
"It was such a privilege for us to know Todd and talk with him," Kandie said.
Kandie said when Steve Koontz learned his and the Vaughns' common connection to the Night Stalkers, he added the distinctive red arrowhead shoulder patch of the U.S. Army Special Operations Command (Airborne) --- of which the Night Stalkers are a part --- to the top of the motorcycle's fuel tank.
The motorcycle also features a white U.S. Army star on the fuel tank the POW-MIA logo and other distinctive markings and military insignia.
Proceeds from raffle ticket sales over and above Koontz's cost of labor and materials will go to Kandies Kidz to aid families of deployed, wounded or fallen soldiers with a host of needs, varying from household repairs to customized beds for wounded veterans.
Raffle tickets will be sold until a July 20, 2013, drawing. The motorcycle is on display at Rydell Chevrolet in Waterloo, where Brad Vaughn is collision center manager.
More information about the motorcycle and raffle is available online at kandieskidz.org.