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LEADER &TIMES Your daily news & views for 127 years


May 27, 2013

Vol . 1 2 8 • I s s . 3 4 1 2 Pa g e s



From the front, women support the fight for freedom K e l li ( V a n V l e e t ) R o b e r ts s t o p s d u r i n g a b i cy c l e r id e a c r os s F r a n c e , s p or t i n g h e r “ R o s i e th e R i v e t e r ” sh i r t . R ob e r t s h a s s erv ed wo und ed w a r r i o r s , a n d th a t mi s s i o n l e d t o h e r ma r r i a g e . Courtesy photo

K e n d a l l Bo l t o n w as se n t t o B o st on i n r e s p on se t o t h e t e r r o r i s t a tt a ck A p r i l 1 5 . B o l to n i s a p a r t o f a l e s s e r k n o w n b r a n ch o f t h e m il it a r y k n ow n as t h e U n it e d S t at e s P u b l i c H e a l th S e r v i c e . Courtesy photo

LHS track star uses sports to serve vets

Bolton deployed to Boston bomb scene

Liberal native bikes the world with Operation Comfort

Liberal native also provided Hurricane Irene relief support

By RACHEL COLEMAN • Leader & Times

By ROBERT PIERCE • Leader & Times

As a little girl growing up in Liberal, Kelli (VanVleet) Roberts liked nothing better than to walk across the street to visit her grandpa Gene Eagen. The front porch provided the perfect setting for stories about his days on the farm and in the U.S. Air Force.

In America, April 15 is traditionally the day taxpayers need to have their returns, both federal and state, turned into the government. This year’s April 15 will not soon be forgotten in Boston for other reasons, though, at one of that city’s most well-known sporting events.

“I’d sit there for hours,” she said. “One of his friends who came over sometimes was missing an arm, which scared me until I got used to it. Once I went and grabbed it. I was so intrigued.” Those childhood experiences became an integral part of Roberts’ adult life, which took her from Liberal to Barton County Community College, then on to Texas State University in San Marcos. Today, Roberts routinely travels the world as a recreational therapist for Operation Comfort. The nonprofit agency focuses on helping servicemen and women who’ve returned from deployment. Their wounds often go deeper than the scars or missing limbs that are easy to see, Roberts said, and recreational activities often provide the key that unlocks a sense of hope and confidence for the future. “Once a person has been injured, you know, they often think that’s it. Our goal is to work with the medical treatment team to prove them wrong — to figure out how he can do it,” Roberts said. “We have guys with one arm who can do rock climbing. People who’ve lost a leg that can swim, ski, ride a bike, even surf.” In the process, Roberts said, “they regain their self-respect and sense of personal responsibility. You see the light in their eyes come back. It goes from a place of thinking you’ll never be able to do something, to finding out you can.” Roberts’ perspective has a personal level since she met and married her husband, Scott, at Operation Comfort. A double amputee, Scott did not win Kelli’s heart easily. “We did not like each other at first,” she said. “It’s pretty funny now because we became good friends and just kind of fell in love. I wasn’t expecting it, but here we are.” The couple celebrated their first anniversary in February. This unexpected turn of events was just one in a series that began as the former LHS track star found her way in the world. A heavily recruited athlete, Roberts (then VanVleet) attended Barton County on scholarship and earned an associate’s degree in science. She was poised to continue toward a degree in chemical engineering while competing in track at Texas State. Something changed when she encountered a field of study and work she’d never heard about before.

N See KELLI/Page 3A


K e l l i a n d h e r h u s b a n d , Sc o tt R o b e r t s , m e t a t O p e r a ti o n C o m f o r t a n d f o r m e d a b o n d t h a t e ve n t u a l l y l e d t o m a r r i a g e . Courtesy photo

high plains

&BEYOND Taking High Plains values across the globe.

In this undated image released Thursday May 23 by the British Ministry of Defence, showing Lee Rigby known as ‘Riggers’ to his friends, who is identified by the MOD as the serving member of the armed forces who was attacked and killed by two men in the Woolwich area of London on Wednesday. Rigby was wearing his ‘Help for Heroes’ T-shirt, the same group being supported by Kelly Roberts. AP Photo/MOD

Help for Heroes targeted by terrorists By RACHEL COLEMAN • Leader & Times Just as Kelli Roberts and the Operation Comfort team prepared to bike across Europe for a bit of sightseeing in England, a partnering agency made the news thanks to a terrorist attack. British serviceman Lee Rigby died Wednesday after he was attacked in broad daylight in Woolwich, a suburb of London. Two men used meat cleavers and knives to hack Rigby to death in front of shocked bystanders. One attacker shouted that the killing was “an eye for an eye, a tooth for tooth” protest against the British government and in support of Muslim

militants. Passersby attempted to help Rigby, but were unable to save him. When police arrived, gunfire broke out and a sharp shooter injured both men. Rigby was wearing a “Help for Heroes” T-shirt. Roberts’ mother acknowledged it was “unnerving” to hear reports of the killing just as the Operation Comfort/Help for Heroes team set off for the bike ride. Fortunately, the tour group had traveled to Salisbury, 100 miles from London, the day of the attack. Rigby’s death prompted such an outpouring of donations to Help for Heroes that the group’s website was flooded with traffic and had to shut down temporarily.

Around 2:45 p.m., emergency workers were called to the scene of the finish line of the Boston Marathon as two explosions ripped through the nearby crowd leaving at least three dead, about 150 injured and others wondering what had happened, who had done it and why. In the week that followed, members of the United States Public Health Service were among those who were called to the scene. Among those was 1999 Liberal High School graduate and USPHS Lt. Cmdr. Kendall Conner Bolton, who has currently been assigned to the Army Medical Command in Fort Riley. Bolton’s branch often deploys to natural disasters, such as hurricanes and tornadoes, and incidents that affect mental health. “Sometimes, we have to deploy to tribal nations when there’s mass suicides,” she said. “We were deployed to assist with mental health after the marathon bombing.” At the time of the bombing, Bolton was part of a mental health team on a 10-day mission. “My first mission was going to the Boston Athletic Association and doing a presentation for the executives that coordinated and ran the Boston Marathon,” she said. “They’re a very tight knit group, and they take a lot of ownership in the marathon. We did a presentation for them, and we also assisted with their mental health needs after their presentation.” Bolton said when she initially heard the news of the bombing, she was shocked by what she was hearing. “I was driving, and I heard it on the radio,” she said. “It was just really hard to wrap my mind around. I got the call the next day, and I had to be prepare to go within eight hours. It was very fast pace and a lot to take in at once.” When she arrived in Boston, Bolton said her feelings became mixed after the initial shock she had felt when finding out about the bombing. “When I got to the airport, there was a police officer with an assault rifle working on the baggage claim,” she said. That was a very new experience for me. There were police officers everywhere. There were National Guard members everywhere. I am used to seeing active duty everywhere, but not armed with pistols and assault rifles and on every corner. That was definitely different.” Bolton said in Boston, security personnel seemed to be everywhere. “There were certain places you could go, couldn’t go,” she said.



Monday, May 27, 2013 LEADER&TIMES


on the

HAPPENINGS high plains

Rec department now accepting registrations for swim lessons

The Recreation Department is now accepting registrations through noon, May 31, for the first session of Red Cross swim lessons. Classes will begin on June 3 and run through June 13. Levels one through six, 3 and 4 years old, 0 to 2 years old and adult swim classes are being offered. The cost is $20. Each class time/level is limited, so prompt registration is recommended. For more information, contact the Recreation Office at 626-0133.


Foundation plans air museum dedication anniversary, seeking artifacts

The Mid-America Air Museum opened 25 years ago as the Liberal Air Museum. Dedicated in September of 1988 by the founding Liberal Air Museum Foundation, the renamed MAAM Foundation will recognize that 1988 opening event this coming Sept. 28 with a 25th Anniversary celebration. As part of this coming September recognition, the Foundation is welcoming any memorabilia, artifacts and pictures anyone may have of those early museum years, from 1986-1988 in particular. The Foundation is also collecting similar material of aviation activity in Liberal and the area from the early 1900s through the B-24 base years to the present as they work toward preparing a documented history of area flight and the museum. More information about the history effort, as well as membership in the Foundation, can be obtained by contacting the Foundation at MAAM Foundation, P.O. Box 2585,Liberal, KS 67905-2585. The Foundation can also be reached at


College to host Allied Health Careers Camp

The Allied Health Division at Seward County Community College/Area Technical School will host an Allied Health Careers Camp from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., June 3-4, at the Epworth Allied Health Education Center, 6th and Washington in Liberal. Students entering grades 9 through 12 will learn about Medical Assistant, Respiratory Therapy, Surgical Technology, Medical Laboratory Technician, Sports Medicine and Nursing. The cost is $10, and students will receive a T-shirt and lunch. Call 620-417-1401 to get signed up.


A B O V E: W i t h O p e r a t i o n C o mf o r t a n d th e Br i t i s h o r ga n i z a t i o n He l p f o r H e r o e s , K e ll i i s c u r r e n t l y t r a v e li n g t h r ou g h ou t E n g l an d a n d F r an ce , o n a t ou r o f g r e a t b a t t le f ie ld s f r om h is t or y . S t op o n e f or t h e g r o u p w a s a m e e t - a n d - g r e e t w i th Pr i n c e H ar r y i n L on d on .

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O Continued from Page 1A “I found out about sports and recreational therapy, and knew right away that was what I wanted to do,� she said. “I changed my major immediately, even though it meant I lost some credit hours.� Roberts knew she wanted to do something that was sports-related — “not in a cubicle,� she said. Her instincts were correct. She earned an internship which eventually led her to Operation Comfort and destinations around the world. Operation Comfort grew out of a 2004 remodeling project at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, where family members of wounded service members spend months and even years at the hospital due to burns, amputations, traumatic brain injuries and post traumatic stress disorder. The troops said they wanted to participate in sports and work on cars, so the group responded by setting up programs to give them access to those activities. Today, Operation Comfort provides support to service members who have been wounded in Afghanistan or Iraq. More than fundraising or publicity, Operation Comfort’s primary goal is to honor and support wounded military members.

K e l l i a n d S co t t m e e t w i th f o r me r Pr e si d e n t G e o r g e H .W . B u sh . Courtesy photos

To do so, the group often sponsors bicycle trips in the U.S. and other countries. This week, Roberts and her teammates have embarked on the “Big Battlefield Bike Ride� across Europe, stopping at sites in England and France. Cyclists from Walter Reed Hospital and a few national Canadian service members joined the Texas group for the trip. With the British organization “Help for Heroes,� the bicyclists toured several attractions in England before embarking on their journey of more than 300 miles. Along the way, the group will stop at historic sites that commemorate the lives of other servicemen. “The trips build camaraderie, and help people who are in recovery accomplish something really major,� said Roberts. “It really opens new doors for them.� Though this week’s activities included a meet-and-greet with Prince William and Prince Harry, a

First Christian Church invites children to vacation Bible School


Looking for some family fun?

Liberal Youth Running Club will be working Grif Golf to raise money for a cross country camp in Colorado. The club will be working Grif Golf from 6 to 10 p.m. Monday through June 2. The cost is $2 for children and $3 for adults. Come out and support a good cause.


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A summer kids’ event called Kingdom Rock will be hosted at First Christian Church from Tuesday to Friday, May 31. At Kingdom Rock, kids participate in memorable Bible-learning activities, sing catchy songs, play teamwork-building games, dig into yummy treats, experience epic Bible adventures, collect items to remind them to stand strong and create fun crafts they’ll take home and play with all summer long. Plus, kids will learn to look for evidence of God all around them through something called God Sightings. Each day concludes with Fanfare Finale – a celebration that gets everyone involved in living what they’ve learned. Family members and friends are encouraged to join in daily for this special time at 8 p.m. Kids at Kingdom Rock will join a missions effort to share God’s love with other children. Kingdom Rock is for kids from 4 years old to 6th grade and will run from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. each day. For more information, call 620-624-2469.

stop at Stonehenge and a visit to Salisbury Cathedral, Roberts said her life and work feels closely connected to her roots in Liberal. “Growing up in a small town where there’s not much to do gives a person so many opportunities,� she said. “You fill your time volunteering and doing things that matter. At least, that’s what I did. Liberal is a very patriotic town,

and sometimes it seemed like I’d been a member of the American Legion from the day I was born. I was raised to respect and acknowledge the sacrifice of servicemen and women, and I love it that I can do that every day.� For everyone, Roberts pointed out, “helping people in the end is always better than doing nothing at all.�

27 lhs track star