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Claridge soldier's team gets local lift

| Wednesday, April 17, 2013, 9:01 p.m.
Margie Stanislaw | The Jeannette Spirit
Chuck Durst’s aunt Lucille Bittner of Jeannette and his mother, Alice Durst of Claridge, display the uniform shirt and hat they sent to Kuwait for the 377th to form a softball team.
Charles Durst Jr. carries his equipment as he leaves for Kuwait in 2012.

Charles Durst Jr., born and raised in Claridge, has shipped out for his second tour of duty in Kuwait as a member of the Army Reserves.

His unit is the 377th of Butler and currently they are in a non-combat zone. Durst's last tour was also in Kuwait when he was shipped out right after Sept. 11, 2001.

A 1993 graduate of Penn Trafford High School, Durst played sports all through his academic career, and his parents were involved right along with him. He also comes from a long line of firemen who have served over the years with the Claridge Fire Department.

In 1995, the Claridge Fire Department decided to start a softball league.

Chuck Durst played in the league along with members of his family.

His mother, Alice Durst, helped to keep score and by 1997, she became the head coach for the team.

“I would be keeping score and watching the game, and after all the years of watching Chuck play sports, I was able to give the players hints on how to do things better,” Alice Durst said.

“After the coach retired, they asked me to be the coach.”

She coached the team, and her son played on the team until it dissolved four years ago, when they just did not have enough players.

After Durst was sent oversees again to Kuwait, one of his unit buddies started a conversation about how it would be great to have a softball team over there, but they didn't have any equipment.

Upon hearing this conversation, Alice Durst decided to help her son and the other soldiers stationed at his base in Kuwait.

“Chuck keeps in contact with his friends. His going away party had 275 people, mostly from Claridge. All his uncles and cousins are firemen there, too,” Alice Durst said.

With that in mind, Alice Durst went to the Claridge Fire Department and asked them for their help.

She asked if they would be willing to donate the shirts and hats from her son's old softball team to the guys in his unit.

Claridge Fire Department was glad to step up and help out.

Alice Durst donated all the softballs, and Dan Cinti, a fireman and close friend of Chuck Durst, donated the bats. After all this work, and some shipping to Kuwait, the 377th now has a softball team.

“Support your soldiers,” Alice Durst said. “This is all new to me because he's never been gone except for that short time years ago.”

Basically, she said she is trying to get the word out that there are different ways to help service men and women.

“It was awfully nice of Claridge Fire Department and the firemen to help out.”

Chuck Durst is married to the former Marissa Mihalevic Durst of Westmoreland City. They have five children Braunlyn, 15, Paetlyn, 12, Jaedyn, 11, Nathan, 8, and Evan, 1.

Marissa Durst works as a registered nurse at Mercy Hospital and Alice Durst helps to watch the children.

At Christmas time last year, Jeannette McKee Elementary School sent Christmas cards to Chuck Durst and his unit. A Boy Scout Troop in McKeesport also sends them care packages, and the 377th has also received cards from the Jeannette Circles Initiative.

Margie Stanislaw is a freelance writer.