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Fairgrounds home to obstacle course Saturday

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Beginning at noon this Saturday, people will put their physical strength to the test at the Dawes County Fairgrounds, as well as the motocross track, in the fifth annual Grey Eagle Warrior Challenge.

Clint Merchin, who helped organize the event, noted the obstacles are almost the same as last year’s though a cargo net crawl was added.

Another change is some additional options for competition. In past years, the challenge began with a 5k, starting at the motocross track, with participants running a circuit of the track and to the fairgrounds before starting the majority of the obstacles. The motocross track is home for two of the obstacles, the log run and log high-low course.

“We had some people say they’d like to do it, but they thought maybe it was a bit too challenging,” Merchin said. This year, there’s three race classes named after the military marksmanship badges.

At the Expert level, participants get the full experience with the 5k and obstacle course. The next level down is Sharpshooter, and eliminates the circuit around the motocross track; there is still a run from the track to the fairgrounds. The lowest level is Marksman, which includes just the fairgrounds obstacles.

Entry fees are: $35 for individuals, $100 for a four-person team at Expert; $20 for Sharpshooters; and $10 for Marksmen. Merchin emphasized the Expert level is the only one available for teams, and medals are not available at the Marksman level.

Fairgrounds obstacles, in addition to the cargo net crawl, include a rope bridge, rope swing over a mud pit, low crawl, litter or water can carry, Atlas drag and wall climb.

There will also be food vendors and a beer garden available, as well as a children’s obstacle course, and static military displays. Merchin noted there is no fee for the children’s course.

Prior to the start of the challenge there will be a tribute to U.S. Marine Corps Master Gunnery Sergeant Kenneth Garner.

Garner was born in Somerset, Neb., in 1947 to Richard and Elisabeth Garner. He was the fifth child and he had eight siblings. He was the last to be born at home. He graduated from Thomas County High School in 1966 and went to Marine Corps Boot Camp in San Diego in July of that year.

After Boot Camp and infantry Training he was stationed at Headquarters Company, Headquarters and Service Battalion, Fleet Marine Force Atlantic in Norfolk, Va. While at Norfolk he volunteered for a change in his Military Occupational Specialty to 0311, and to go straight to Vietnam for duty with an infantry company.

With just one year in the Marine Corps he found himself in South Vietnam with the 7th Marines. White there he was wounded during a motor attach and was awarded the Purple Heart. In October of 1968 he transferred back to the states for duty at Marine Corps Air Station in El Toro, Calif.

While stationed there he met Deborah MacCrone, whom had three daughters. They were married on July 9, 1969, and shortly after they were married his first enlistment was about up. He told Deborah, “I can get out and we can go back to Nebraska and work on a ranch. I will freeze in the winter and cook in the summer, and when I turn 6, we won't have a thing. Or l can stay in the Marines and at least I will get a retirement check.” To this day he says it was the second-best decision he ever made.

In just two short years and four months he was back in Vietnam. The years rolled by and he had many duty stations and deployments. In 1972 Kenneth and Deborah had a son and they named him Kenneth Richard Garner, after his dad. While stationed with the Marine Air Detachment at Naval Air Station, Patuxent River, Md., Kenneth was promoted to Master Gunnery Sargent (E-9).

In September of 1989 Kenneth decided it was time for a change. Not liking it on a Navy base he put in for retirement. After retirement he went to work for a government contracted working on Marine Corps helicopters. When he was turned 62, he was ready to retire for good and he returned to Nebraska. For the past eleven years Kenneth and Deborah has owned The LZ Horse Boarding Stables. They just sold The LZ a few weeks ago and are moving out on Country Club Road where they can relax and love life the way God meant it to be.

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