A little over a week ago, Ben North was starting to think about how he was going to ensure that his family stayed warm this winter.
The disabled Marine veteran who had served on several combat missions has a five-year-old boy and another due to arrive in November.
“I was out doing some gardening work Saturday and out of the blue, I get this call from Colin,” the Stevensville man said. “I didn’t know him at the time. He asked me if my family could use some wood for the winter.”
“I was like ‘are you kidding?’” North said. “That was kind of an odd solicitation. It’s not something that happens every day. After he explained what had happened, I told him ‘absolutely. We were just starting to gear up to figure out what we were going to do this winter.’”
The trail that led Colin Marcoux to North’s doorstep was a story of the kind of small-town kindness that brought both veterans to Stevensville in the first place.
“It was really kind of crazy how things came together,” North said. “One of our family friends knew someone who knew someone from Valley Drug who knew someone else. That story of a community that cares about one another is why we’re here.”
It’s also what brought Colin and Adria Marcoux to the Bitterroot after Colin retired from the military in 2017.
“When my husband and I moved here, we were looking for small-town living where neighbors looked out for each other and helped each other out in times of need,” Adria Marcoux said. “This was what we had while in the military, and this was what I wanted for my family as he retired.”
Her husband served in three branches of the military, including 17 years as a flight paramedic.
“For many, retirement from the military is not easy,” Adria Marcoux said. “He is a hard worker, he likes to help people in their time of need and although he looked forward to spending more time with family, it was not an easy transition.”
Along the way, her husband found an organization called Montana Warriors on the Water. The Miles City-based group takes veterans out on hunting and fishing trips that allow them to experience the comradery they might miss from active duty and to share experiences with fellow veterans.
“The friendship and bonds made on these trips were truly life savers,” Adria Marcoux said.
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After going on a couple of trips with the organization, he eventually signed on its board of directors with a goal of working to expand its reach into western Montana. Anyone who would like to help out in the effort can contact Marcoux at firstname.lastname@example.org
A couple of weeks ago, Marcoux walked into the Valley Drug in Stevensville to fill a routine prescription. He was wearing his Montana Warriors on the Water T-shirt.
One of the drug store’s pharmacists, Mandy Major, saw his shirt and asked him if he knew of any veterans in need of firewood this season.
It turns out that Major’s husband, Gene, is a log truck driver. For the second year in a row, he had brought home a truckload of firewood that he and his wife cut up and donated to local veterans in need.
“She told me that they had a load of wood at their home that had been donated to them,” Colin Marcoux said. “They wanted to offer it to a veteran who may not be able to get out to get their own or was maybe down on their luck.”
Marcoux reached out to some of his contacts.
“Within an hour, I received a text message back that they knew of someone who could use the wood to keep their family warm this winter,” Colin Marcoux said. “Everything fell into place just right … I called him and told him that we’d like to help you guys out. Ben was totally excited. I think he was almost in tears when I first told him about it. He was totally thankful for the gesture.”
Gene Major said landowners donate the trees and loggers volunteer their time to cut them down and help get them loaded. This year’s truckload came from the Bacon Ranch in Wisdom. Tom Frisk and Bill Beeman helped load the truck. The loggers were Hall Wood Products of Potomac and Iron Pine Logging of Deer Lodge.
Last year, Major said they delivered about 16 cords of wood to various veterans or veteran organizations around Stevensville. Anyone interested in helping him cut up what he has left of this year’s load can email him at email@example.com.
Last Sunday, a group of volunteers that includes the Majors, Marcouxs, Dan Sorenson and Brittany and Brian Olney met at Major’s home to cut, split and load three pickup trucks full of firewood that was then delivered to North’s home.
“This was the perfect way to spend a Sunday,” Adria Marcoux said. “From the pharmacists in town to the logging company and ranch owner, to Montana Warriors on the Water, neighbors helping neighbors. This is why we live where we live.”