Through Our Struggle, We Find Solace In Giving Back

By Kandice Claybaker

The Claybaker D.U.S.T.O.F.F. Foundation (CDF) is a non-profit charity founded in January 2015 by retired Army Ranger Charles Claybaker and his wife Kandice. CDF is dedicated to providing combat veterans assistance during times of transition and hardship, and supports projects addressing all aspects of recovery and transition from military service and/or combat related injuries.


The term D.U.S.T.O.F.F. is derived from the radio call sign given to the 57th Medical Detachment aeromedical helicopter evacuation unit in Vietnam (1962) and stands for Dedicated, Unhesitating Support To Our Fighting Forces. Charles personally experienced "the last ride off the battle field" during his fifth tour overseas.

 

On April 9, 2010, Charles was severely wounded in the Zabul Province of Afghanistan when his CV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft experienced mechanical failure and crashed into the ground at approximately 160 mph. Upon impact, the landing gear collapsed and the aircraft flipped over before coming to a halt about 1,500 feet away. Of the 22 on board, four lost their lives and 16 were wounded. Of the four that perished, one was an Army Ranger and close friend, CPL Michael D. Jankiewicz.


In the crash, Charles dislocated his right hip, broke his acetabulum (the surface of the pelvis that meets the femur to form the hip joint), fractured his right tibia plateau, shattered his tibia/fibula at the right ankle, had to have a double right leg fasciotomy in the field to relieve compartment syndrome, damaged several discs throughout his back, and experienced a traumatic brain injury (TBI). Residual effects of the TBI brought forth issues with adult-onset attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).


After being medically discharged from the Army in December 2012, Charles found himself searching for a purpose. He started attending college but was unsure what he’d even do with a degree once he had one. After losing his close friend in that fateful plane crash in 2010, Charles knew he wanted to do something to honor Mike’s memory and make him proud. That was when Charles and I felt compelled to make our lives truly worthwhile and vowed to do something that would make the world a better place. 


The Claybaker D.U.S.T.O.F.F. Foundation is how we hope to achieve just that. We operate by the motto “fix your bubble first,” which is why we focus on Tampa Bay area veterans currently.  Over time, we hope to grow to positively affect the lives of veterans across the nation.


Our current projects include building food gardens at veterans’ homes and housing centers for them to grow their own food, constructing three fallen hero memorials throughout the county for our local Pinellas County KIA, distributing out CDF Survival Pack Program (where we give backpacks filled with food, toiletries, socks, rain poncho, etc. to homeless veterans), and a continuing partnership with Chick-Fil-A to feed local homeless veterans on a monthly basis at local shelters, VA centers, and Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) posts.


Charles and I are both St. Petersburg, FL, natives and met in high school.  We were close friends for many years before starting to date, and ultimately getting married in 2006. Just last November we renewed our vows, celebrating ten years of marriage.


Charles enlisted with the U.S. Army in May 2006 under a Ranger contract and was assigned to Alpha Company, 3rd Ranger Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, in November 2006. He served with 3/75 RGR RGT for six years before he was medically retired. Kandice earned her Bachelors in Civil Engineering from Auburn University in December 2011 and is a project manager for a local multi-family developer/builder in St. Petersburg. She is CDF’s Chief Operations Officers and Charles’ VA caregiver.

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