Trash Pick-up Spreads Soldier’s Story

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LODI–

At the entrance of the Flag City Park and Ride lot is the name of National Guard specialist Erich Hans Taeger, which is just a hint of his story.

13 years ago, Hans was about to be deployed to Bosnia; he and his buddies went out for one last celebration. A designated driver was assigned, but as the night went on the group got split up. When they came together again Hans asked the driver if he was okay to drive. Hans didn’t know the designated driver had been drinking. On the way back to the barracks the driver hit a tree; Hans died at the scene and the driver died two days later. An autopsy on the driver showed a blood alcohol level of .128 — more than the legal limit of .08.

That was March 25, 2000.

During that time Hans’ sister, Emily Marino, has done a lot to raise awareness about the dangers of drinking and driving. She’s a member of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, formed team Erich Hans for Sacramento’s Walk Like MADD event, and speaks at victim impact panels. Now she’s adopted the Park and Ride lot in her brother’s name, through CalTrans Adopt-A-Highway program.

Marino, along with her husband and other volunteers will pick up trash in the lot once a month for five years. Caltrans provides all the safety gear and equipment, while the volunteers donate their time.

Quite a commitment but Marino doesn’t mind, because who it’s for.

“Me and my brother were 15 months apart so we were very close growing up,” said Marino. “I would actually let them do skateboard jumps over me.”

The trash is what you’d expect lots of cigarette butts and fast food wrappers; then there’s the not-so-common. The most interesting items volunteers have found are a practically brand new pair of Ugg boots and, “A lot of Q-tips which is odd,” said Marino.

The group has just finished its second month of clean-up, which means there’s a ways to go.

Through it all, Marino hopes her brother’s story will prevent another tragedy. “Keep his name alive,” she said, “Maybe someone will drive by, see his name, Google it and see what his story is.”

Marino is currently collecting donations for an upcoming auction to benefit the Walk Like MADD event. To make a donation contact Marino at emilyisMADD@gmail.com

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