Spokane Valley businessman Jack Pring received a Patriot Award this week for watching over a soldier’s family.
“I believe Jack Pring is a true patriot,” Washington Army National Guard Specialist Walter Long said in his nomination of Pring for the award.
Kirk Owsley, general manager of Pring Corp., said the award brought a tear to Pring’s eye.
“That was quite an honor,” Pring said. “An unexpected honor. It’s a humbling thing to tell you the truth.”
The award – a plaque and a lapel pin – was presented by Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, an organization that encourages employers to support citizen-soldiers.
Long, who is stationed at Camp Victory just outside Baghdad, Iraq, said Pring’s attention to his family “makes my mind a little more at ease and helps make this deployment a little easier on my family and myself.”
Long’s fiancée, Jessica Dacosta, has worked about three years in collections for Appleway Equipment Leasing. The semitruck dealership at 15404 E. Springfield Ave. is a wholly owned subsidiary of Pring Corp., of which Jack Pring is chairman.
“Jack is a Korean War vet, backing the military 100 percent, and very interested in Walter,” Dacosta said.
Pring said he is “just a guy who spent three years in the service, nothing extra.” He was a Coast Guard chief petty officer, assigned to air-sea rescue weather patrols that passed through Korean waters.
He asked to meet Long to pay his respects.
“We can’t have these boys coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan be treated like some of the boys who came back from Vietnam.”
Dacosta said Pring comes to the Appleway office – which is run by his son, Brad – almost daily and makes a point of asking whether she and the couple’s three children need anything.
The children are Gunner, 7, who’s a first-grader at Whitman Elementary; Taryn, 4; and Everett, 2.
“If it has to do with my kids or the family, it’s given to me, no questions asked,” Dacosta said. “Everyone has been very supportive.”
Co-workers “changed some things around so I could go on my vacation when Walter came home on leave,” Dacosta said.
She said she hasn’t needed a lot of help, but it’s comforting to have the support of someone with Pring’s resources.
Pring said he’s “old school” when it comes to people helping each other.
“That’s the way it’s supposed to be,” he said.
Dacosta said Pring had seen Long at various events but hadn’t actually met him until Long returned to Spokane for 15 days in October. That’s when Pring asked her to bring Long to the office for a “meet-down.”
“They hit it off tremendously,” she said. “Jack definitely made sure that Wally would not have to worry about anything as far as the family was concerned while he was gone.”
Pring said he respects Long.
“He’s a John Rogers (High School) boy, he’s a wrestler, he’s a tough kid,” Pring said.
But Pring also admires Long for “speaking kindly of his employer,” the Huntwood cabinet-making shop in Liberty Lake.
Dacosta said Long has had a wide range of duties in 11 years with Huntwood.
Long’s deployment in March 2008 was his second time to be sent to Iraq.
The first was in 2003, when he was in a Pullman-based infantry unit. He’s now in a Spokane-based transportation outfit that’s expected to return home in early March.
Dacosta said the couple’s children seem to be handling the deployment well. She organizes activities for youths as a Family Readiness Group volunteer, “so they get to see a lot and do a lot.”
But Dacosta said her two youngest children often turn to their Hugs to Go “daddy dolls” – little rag soldiers with photographic faces of absent fathers.
“The 2- and 4-year-olds are attached to them,” Dacosta said. “They need them every day.”