“I tried,” is a statement that Dave Sarna likes to live by. From his work at Fox Valley Technical College, to volunteering for Snodeo, to his dedication in public service, or his commitment to the United States Army, he works hard at all he does.
“My father raised me under the precedent that when the going gets tough, the tough get going,” Sarna remarks. As a long time resident of Manawa, he is more than just an ordinary citizen.
Currently serving in Kandahar, Afghanistan, Sarna found time to make it home to volunteer for the recent Manawa Snodeo event held at Bear Lake – an event he was instrumental in bringing to the area.
Sarna’s love of racing and motorsports is well known. Two years ago he ran for a record at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah. When he’s stateside, he’s also helping groom the students at FVTC in the Beat the Heat drag racing program, an interest that he has shared with his son, Mike. He is also in the Army, stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
“As a father, you dream about your son growing up to be the star quarterback or the center of the basketball team. That was just not happening for Mike.” He laughs as he explains, “He even had a hard time sitting on the bench. But racing was something he had a talent for. From the age of 12, Mike could run grown men off the trails.”
Sarna, who was one of the last men to sign up for leave in his unit, noticed a time slot available during Snodeo, and he was quick to take it.
In his fourth year of volunteering for the event, Dave was on the ice once again, announcing the day’s events. Snodeo is an event that his whole family is involved in.
He is quick to give credit to his wife, Deb, for helping to organize the event, in addition to many other volunteers. “Bridget and Ryan Conroy, owners of Bear Lake Resort, give us the ‘key to the resort’ over that weekend.” The Lions Club and the Northport Snowriders Snowmobile Club are also very instrumental in making the event a success.
Sarna learned some of his event working skills by watching Iola’s Chet Krause.
“Chet Krause was very inspirational to me. He knew how to utilize all his resources to make an event work,” explained Sarna.
Sarna, who is also the mayor of Manawa, serves as mayor of the Forward Operating Base Ramrod in Afghanistan. He talks with pride about his work in Afghanistan. “They wanted someone who had some experience as mayor, that could oversee the people and keep them safe,” he states. Sarna created department heads and made them responsible for various activities. “I found it funny how I could be the mayor of two different cities, in two different countries, all at the same time.”
Sarna acknowledged Bob Lieberman, Manawa City Council president, who effectively fills his role as mayor while he is away.
Sarna’s roles in Afghanistan are many, but his focus is to train the Afghan Army to do what the United States Army now does for them. “It was very rewarding to look out the window of the airplane on my way home, and see that the Afghan Army is now guarding a roadway that was once maintained by us,” said Sarna.
He admits that the hardest thing about being gone is the fear of the unexpected and being out of a “normal and safe” routine. He states, “When calling home and talking to family or friends, they often say nothing out of the ordinary has been happening.” This is something Sarna wishes was the norm when hunting for roadside bombs in Afghanistan. “We pray for faith in God and our safety each day,” states Sarna. “We end the day with mission briefs, and I tell my soldiers, ‘Reach out to something of value and that you cherish, every day, and utilize it to give you strength.'”
Some may see him as a hometown hero. When asked his thoughts on this, Dave states, “I don’t need the accolades. It’s great to hear good things about what you have done, without taking credit.” He considers himself a dreamer and inspires others to do the same. A “never say never” kind of guy, he adds, “The reward is seeing events coming together. It’s all about making a statement for the betterment of others.”
Sarna, who is now back on duty in Afghanistan, is due to return to Manawa sometime this summer.