By Mollie Miller
Killeen Daily Herald
A soldier picked to win a new car had a good reason to be out of pocket Tuesday night he was preparing for deployment to Iraq.
Things didn't go as planned Tuesday night during a general membership meeting for the Central Texas-Fort Hood Chapter of the Association of the United States Army.
The meeting, which featured remarks from Gen. Benjamin Griffin, the commander of the Army's Materiel Command, was to be highlighted by the drawing for a 2006 Ford Mustang or a 2006 Hyundai Tiburon donated by Automax.
Facing a room bubbling with excited chatter, the chapter president, retired Lt. Gen. Don Jones, invited retired Gen. Robert Shoemaker to the stage to select the winning ticket.
As more than 400 people held their breath and crossed their fingers, Jones announced the winner Pfc. Ernest Marshall.
Quickly, Jones took out his cell phone to call the winner and tell him about his prize. Jones was out of luck, however. The message on Marshall's phone said the party was not accepting calls.
Where in the world was Pfc. Ernest Marshall?
Wednesday, after a little investigating, Jones found Marshall and said he should have known where he was all along.
Marshall, Jones said, was in the field with his unit from the 1st Cavalry Division's Air Cavalry Brigade preparing for a late summer deployment to Iraq.
Of course, Jones said, where else would a soldier be?
After finding him, Jones said little time passed before Marshall heard he was the winner.
"My chief had sent be back to post to retrieve some parts and while I was back on post, (someone) asked me if I had a choice between a Mustang or a Tiburon, which would I take," Marshall, 21, said. "I said probably the Mustang, but it depends on how they look."
"Then he said I needed to go to battalion, my car was waiting for me."
Marshall officially took possession of a $23,000 2006 Hyundai Tiburon, the first new car he has ever owned, at Automax Imports in Killeen on Wednesday.
After a few signatures and $10 for the car's tax and license, Automax took care of the rest of the tax and license fee, the car was his.
Marshall was joined at Automax on Wednesday by his girlfriend, Dannette Rayes. Rayes said she didn't believe Marshall had won a car when he first told her.
"When he called and said he won a car, I thought he said he bought a car," Rayes said laughing. "I had to call him back and ask him to tell me again."
Marshall almost missed out on the car, however. When he saw AUSA representatives selling tickets at Wal-Mart Saturday and heard that the money was going to support soldiers and their families, the 21-year-old just wanted to donate $5. Chapter board member Ron Taylor finally convinced him to fill out the tickets, however.
Today, Marshall is very glad he listened to Taylor.
"I went ahead and bought five tickets and my thought was that I was just donating $5 to soldiers and their families," he said. "When it comes to supporting soldiers, I am always giving out money without too many questions."
Chapter officials estimate the ticket sales for the car raffle topped out at more than $30,500 after just eight weeks. Exceeding the chapter's previous motorcycle fund-raiser by more than $10,000, Jones said he was very pleased with the success of the effort.
"I just want to offer my sincere thanks to everyone who bought tickets," he said. "This money will all go for programs to improve the quality of life for soldiers and their families."
After taking possession of the car Wednesday afternoon, Marshall headed back to Fort Hood to join his team in the field.
Contact Mollie Miller at email@example.com