OOA reaches out to parents of slain journalist

Michael Braun, mbraun@news-press.com 4:47 p.m. EDT August 28, 2014

A Southwest Florida military charity is hoping an offer to the parents of slain U.S. journalist James Foley to spend a week on Captiva Island will help the New Hampshire residents deal with their loss.

Marine John “GiddyUp” Bunch, of St. James City, runs Operation Open Arms and is usually involved helping disabled veterans, servicemen and women in need.

The beheading of Foley this month at the hands of Islamic terror organization ISIS prompted Bunch to make the offer.

The vacation offer is now in the Foleys’ hands and an answer was expected soon, a family spokesman said.

Foley was abducted in northern Syria in November 2012 while covering that country’s civil war. ISIS said the beheading was in retaliation for U.S. airstrikes in northern Iraq.

“In my 91/2 years as founder and director of Operation Open Arms, I have never had anything affect me quite like the beheading of James Foley, an innocent American in Iraq,” Bunch said.

Bunch said this is the first time civilian personnel are invited and stressed no Open Arms funds would be used on what would be a $3,500 to $4,000 offer. “Donations and in-kind services are being used by all involved,” he said.

Fort Myers Councilman Tom Leonardo made the offer Monday at Bunch’s request. The two arranged a similar vacation for Marine Cpl. Christian Brown.

Brown made news in 2012 after passengers complained he received rude and humiliating treatment aboard a Delta Air Lines flight.

Leonardo said he spoke with John and Diane Foley’s parish priest in Rochester, N.H., on Monday and received a response Tuesday afternoon.

He said the clergyman said he would get back to Leonardo next week.

What Operation Open Arms does

The charity has obtained services such as wedding photos, fishing charters and limousine transport for servicemen and servicewomen in need. The group has provided 2,689 service members with free one-week vacations upon returning from combat or a foreign duty, such as Gitmo, South Korea, or Germany.

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