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300 veterans celebrate birthday of Hamilton boy whose dad died in Iraq

Published: Friday, May 19, 2017 @ 3:13 PM
Updated: Friday, May 19, 2017 @ 3:23 PM

Aiden Luff, 7, asked for military veterans to come to his birthday party so he could feel closer to his father, who died in Iraq.

Move over Batman and take Robin with you.

Fly away Superman.

You too Spiderman

There are new super heroes in town, at least in the eyes of a 7-year-old Hamilton boy.

“Veterans are much cooler,” said Aiden Luff, who just completed first grade at Brookwood Elementary School.

MORE: Organizers hope to grow Hamilton’s Memorial Day Parade

When Katie Luff asked what kind of birthday party her son wanted, he said a party with a military theme. All veterans. Army. Navy. Air Force. Marines. If you served, Aiden wanted you invited.

See on Nov. 21, 2010, when Aiden was only 5 months old, his father, Sgt. David James Luff Jr., 29, died in Tikrit, Iraq after insurgents attacked his unit with small-arms fire, the Department of Defense said.

A Hamilton High School graduate, Luff joined the Army in July 2004 as a tanker and attended training at Fort Knox, Ky. Upon completion, he was assigned to B Company, 1st Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment where he served as a gunner.

In 2006, he was deployed with 1st Battalion, 23rd Infantry to Operation Iraqi Freedom for 15 months. In April 2009, he was re-assigned to Able Company, 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment “Wolfhounds” where he served as a driver. He was promoted to the rank of sergeant in January of 2010. Seven months later, he deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn as a gunner.

Gold Star Family Katie Luff and her son Aiden, 7, in their Hamilton home, Friday, May 19, 2017. Aiden asked to invite Military Service Veterans to his birthday party so he can feel closer to his dad, Army Sgt. David J. Luff Jr., who was killed in Iraq. GREG LYNCH / STAFF(Staff Writer)

“He’s very proud of veterans and his father,” said Katie Luff, 32, who noted Aiden was 6 weeks old when his father was deployed to Iraq. That was the last time they saw each other.

MORE: Memorial in honor of Middletown Judge Mark Wall to benefit elementary

When Luff’s family and friends started planning the party last week at the Middletown Airport, Katie Luff had no idea how many veterans would respond to a birthday party for a 7-year-old. She figured about 30 people might show up.

Instead it was 300.

Aiden was picked up at Smith Park and rode on the back of Perry Davis’ motorcycle. As they approached the airport, Davis, president of the Fraternal Order of Police Associates, was amazed by the turnout of well-wishers, many of them saluting the young boy.

“You can’t describe it,” he said.

Then he came up with the perfect word: “Awesome.”

WATCH: America’s veterans hailed in grand way at Lakota East High School

Those in attendance showered Aiden with birthday presents, including several Challenge Coins, a leather motorcycle vest stitched with his nickname “Boo Boo” and patches, a military shadow box, dog tags, and he was invited to meet several members of Team Fastrax, a Middletown-based skydiving team that performed.

“He was treated very special,” his mother said. “It was emotional. It was amazing. All these men, all these men who didn’t know my son, showed such kindness and respect like he was family. The number of people, well, it was overwhelming.”

Her son, she said, typically very shy, interacted with those at his party.

“He had the biggest smile all day,” she said. “He thinks he’s famous now.”

MORE: Butler County veterans spending to see double digit increases

She said veterans are special because they appreciate the sacrifices of those in the military and their families.

“They understand and care and let you know not to forget the people who didn’t come home,” she said.

The Luffs were married on Dec. 31, 2008, New Year’s Eve, and he often told fellow soldiers his anniversary was easy to remember.

Less than two years later, he was killed serving his country during his second tour of duty.

When Katie Luff heard the knock at the front door seven years ago, and saw a chaplain standing there, she knew the numbing news: The love of her life, her high school sweetheart, was gone.

“Every life plan was just taken away,” she said. “We had so many things planned. It was so soon. My world collapsed right there.”

MORE: Career fair for veterans set for May 25

Now, she said, her job as a mother is to protect her “best little buddy,” that energetic 7-year-old boy.

“He gave me a purpose to keep my head up and keep marching,” she said.

Every so often, Aiden flashes a facial expression that reminds his mother of his father. Those are good days in the Luff house.

“I still have that piece of Dave,” Katie Luff said.

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Hundreds join annual heart walk at Upper Valley Mall

Published: Saturday, February 24, 2018 @ 4:12 PM

More than 300 people, mostly in red, participated in the annual Clark and Champaign Counties Heart Walk today at the Upper Valley Mall.

The local walk joins efforts by the American Heart Association to fight heart disease and stroke. The annual event also featured vendor booths and a health fair, and was sponsored by Springfield Regional Medical Center.

Got a tip? Call our monitored 24-hour line, 937-259-2237, or send it to newsdesk@cmgohio.com.

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Daytonian shares Ali’s favorite title belt and legacy

Published: Saturday, February 24, 2018 @ 3:39 PM

Tony Shultz (right) holding Ali's belt with WBC President Mauricio Sulaiman with world champions Zab Judah and Jessie Vargas.
Tony Shultz (right) holding Ali's belt with WBC President Mauricio Sulaiman with world champions Zab Judah and Jessie Vargas.

The decorated green strip of leather was the first WBC title belt custom-made for a boxer, and that boxer was Muhammad Ali, according to Tony Shultz, a Daytonian who shares the belt with everyone he meets. 

The 39-year-old who lives in the Dayton View Triangle neighborhood is a former boxer who trained with the likes of Manny Pacquiao and Roy Jones Jr. 

Shultz said the belt was given to him at Ali's funeral by Ali's wife, Lonnie.

MORE >>> One of our writers prepares to step into the ring 

"This was the first belt created for a champion," Shultz said. "It was created to divide all the weight divisions. This was the heavyweight championship belt and named the "Ali WBC Belt" because it would always have his image on it as the division's greatest champion." 

The belt has the signatures of many famous boxers — including Sugar Ray Leonard, Tommy "The Hitman" Hearns and Neon Leon Spinks, who defeated Ali in 1978 in one of the biggest upsets in boxing history. 

Shultz said the belt was Ali’s favorite and he often wore it around the house. 

"After he passed away, Lonnie (Ali's wife) decided that she wanted to keep the Ali legacy alive and the best way she could do that was having a belt in circulation," Shultz said. "All the other belts are either in the Ali Center, they're in the museum or his kids have them. This is actually the only Ali belt that's in circulation, outside of the 'Rumble in the Jungle' belt which just sold at a private auction." 

Shultz said he was given the belt on the condition that he share it with people and thus share Ali's legacy. 

>> 3 unforgettable moments in Dayton’s boxing history

"Lonnie gave it to me, said 'Tony, here's the deal. I want you to have every champion that you know, every champion that you meet, sign it … have their story told. I want (to continue) Ali's legacy of humanity, his spirit of equality, fairness, and most importantly that of conquering any challenges," he said. 

At the last sparring session for Dayton Fight Night competitors at the Brown Institute of Martial Arts, Shultz brought the keepsake and let anybody who wanted to have a photo taken with it draped over their shoulder. 

Shultz will be sharing the amazing keepsake tonight at Memorial Hall at Dayton Fight Night. Tickets are $20. The doors open at 7 p.m.

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Neon sign sparks small fire outside Quincy’s in Dayton

Published: Saturday, February 24, 2018 @ 4:58 AM
Updated: Saturday, February 24, 2018 @ 5:16 AM

A neon sign caught fire outside of the restaurant at 865 North Main Street around 3:30 a.m., according to our first responder.

A neon sign caught fire early this morning outside Quincy’s restaurant.

Crews were called around 3:30 a.m. to 865 N. Main St. The road was closed at Miami Boulevard for a few hours as Dayton fire crews were on scene.

>>17-year-old arrested in death of Dayton mother shot in front of 2 children

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Expect heavy rain, strong winds this evening

Published: Saturday, February 24, 2018 @ 5:32 AM
Updated: Saturday, February 24, 2018 @ 4:30 PM

Heavy rain will increase the flooding threat today. Storms tonight may produce damaging winds.

Showers and thunderstorms are expected this evening, some of which could be strong to severe, Storm Center 7 Meteorologist Brett Collar said.

QUICK-LOOK FORECAST

  • Flood watch until 10 a.m. Sunday for entire region; flood warning until 8:30 p.m Monday for Great Miami R. near Middletown
  • Strong winds, heavy rain likely this evening
  • Isolated tornado can’t be ruled out this evening

>> Weekend brings more rain, threat for strong storms

5 Day Forecast with Meteorologist McCall Vrydaghs

A Flood Warning is until 8:30 p.m. Monday for the Great Miami River near Middletown, and a Flood Watch is in effect until 10 a.m. Sunday for the entire region.

>> Great Miami River expected to crest this weekend; where will flooding occur?

Tonight: Showers and thunderstorms are expected this evening, some of which could be strong to severe. Storms will move in around 7 p.m. and won’t exit until around 11 p.m. or midnight. As these storms move through, the biggest concerns will be heavy rain leading to flooding, and strong winds, which could lead to powerlines being knocked down along with trees being knocked over. With the ground so saturated, tree damage will be a high concern. In addition, an isolated tornado can’t be ruled out. The storms move out around midnight, but a few lingering showers will be possible overnight. Temperatures will be steady in the 40s overnight.

>> WHIO Live Doppler 7 HD Interactive Radar

Sunday: A pre-dawn shower is possible early, but aside from that clouds will decrease to allow for some afternoon sunshine with highs in the lower 50s. It’s also going to be a windy day with winds gusting over 30 mph at times.

Monday: Mostly sunny skies are expected with highs in the lower to middle 50s.

Tuesday: We get back into the upper 50s with mostly sunny skies.

Wednesday: The chance for rain returns in the afternoon and evening. Highs will be in the upper 50s.

Thursday: Rain showers are expected with highs in the middle 50s.

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