Sgt. Tom Butler, right, also the Checotah High baseball coach, along with SPC Andrew Berry pick up a case of COVID-19 testing kits on a route as part of their work with the National Guard.

This wasn’t the spring activity Tom Butler envisioned a couple months ago.

Ideally, he’d be in Oklahoma City today with a Checotah Wildcats team that fought through the 2020 campaign and reached the state tournament.

Problem is, however, they barely got the battle going before the health crisis stopped so much of everyday life. 

With the season cancelled, Butler, a National guard veteran since 2010, became involved in a regional effort of pickups of COVID-19 testing kits from health care points in a seven county area surrounding Muskogee to the local county health department here, then on to the Oklahoma State lab in Stillwater

“With no season and doing school online it gave me the opportunity to go do something with the Guard,” he said. “We hit three counties every day and it takes about five hours.”

Butler got into the National Guard at 40 while his oldest son Chase was looking into military service and enlisted in the Air Force.  

“We went in to get him in and they wound up with both of us,” he said, laughing. 

Butler’s duties up to now have been stateside. A tour of duty to Afghanistan in 2013 was halted by multiple neck and knee injuries suffered in a traffic accident.

“Normally during baseball I wouldn’t be able to do something like this,” he said. “Last year about this time was the flood recovery and I missed that, so when this opportunity came up I jumped on it while I could.”

Butler, an E-5 sergeant, goes in a group of two to three soldiers. 

“My part is a small part, but I’ve really been impressed with our health care workers, our state officials, and both the Army National Guard and Air National Guard who are doing this as part of a joint task force,” he said. “Everything so far has been a pretty seamless movement.”

He couldn’t mention numbers in terms of kits they are handling but expressed optimism seeing what he’s seen.

“I know a lot of people are pointing to Oklahoma as one of the states that seem to be doing things right, and that just depends on someone’s opinion too,” he said. “I will say you can look at the counties we serve and the numbers aren’t picking up too much. They’re leveling off.

“We do what we’re told and with the summer coming hopefully it dies down. It seems to be what people are thinking. So we’ll see.”

Baseball, though, is lost at this point, for him and his team, including Brock, his youngest son and a sophomore.

“Just sitting around the first few weeks was driving me crazy not being out on the baseball field and of course (Brock) is right there with me on that,” Butler said. “He and I got out in open pastures and got workouts in. That’s all we can do with the high school facilities being off limits.”

But, what he wound up doing plugs a huge hole.

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