By Mike Horn — ESPN Action Sports
Compared to the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, snowboarding seems pretty insignificant. But many soldiers, especially those based in Colorado, are snowboarders.
The G, 2nd Battalion, 135th General Support Aviation, which is a helicopter medical evacuation unit based out of Colorado, just returned home this May after a year in Iraq. The primary mission for the Company was to provide life-saving support to U.S. and Coalition soldiers there.
It’s standard for soldiers in the unit to be issued a pistol to commemorate their deployment and service, but Staff Sergeant Edwin Wiley already has three commemorative pistols. This time around he wanted to do something different, so he contacted Never Summer last May to inquire about getting a custom run of commemorative snowboards made.
Wiley and the unit collaborated with Never Summer’s Jeremy Salyer on the graphic design, a silhouette of a Black Hawk Helicopter like the ones the Battalion flew in Iraq. The board base is custom die-cut that reads “DUSTOFF” — short for: “Dedicated, Unhesitating Service to Our Fighting Forces.”
“I guess they had a pretty active debate on the final choices, and we came up with the final graphic after the unit took a vote,” says Never Summer’s Mike “Gags” Gagliardi.
Gagliardi and fellow Never Summer collaborator Chris Harris attended the unit’s welcome home ceremony, where 66 boards were distributed to a group of stoked soldiers. The unit then returned the favor by presenting Never Summer with a Certificate of Thanks and a special U.S. flag.
“I was shocked … my jaw literally dropped,” Gagliardi admits. “We never expected to receive anything like this back from these guys. [The flag] flew in five different unit missions in Iraq. … These guys are the ones putting their lives on the line. It is proudly displayed at the Never Summer offices.”
The Denver, Colo.-based snowboard manufacturer is already planning other projects with the armed forces.