BILLINGS, Mont. -- The owners of Red Oxx Manufacturing in Billings are donating over one hundred personally designed bags to crew members of the USS Billings.
Jim Markel and Perry Jones are both former parachute riggers: Markel served in the Marines and Jones served in the Navy. Despite their natural rivalry, Markel and Jones put their equipment expertise together to make bags of the highest quality.
"You know, we custom built these bags for the crew, because we know that they're tight on space. The ship board living is really tight so they'll have to store this bag under their bunk and, you know, be able to deploy it and head out into town," says Markel.
"Everything that I built when I was in the military and what we build now... mine had to save lives... so it was 'Be sure, always' was our creed-o... So that's what we try to do with our bags," says Jones.
They call them liberty bags. Along with creating the design, Red Oxx is manufacturing and shipping most of the USS Billings Commissioning Committee's items to Key West, Florida for the ceremony. Items include everything from jerseys, hats from Billings Police and Fire, to road signs, pictures, and jerky made locally in Billings.
Joy Mariska, a former Army Cook, even authored her own cookbook for the USS Billings crew members.
Mariska's cookbook not only contains delicious recipes, but also information on current and historic Billings families. She credits some of the book's contents to Bernie Mason, a woman who helped the YWCA write a cookbook in 1982. Mariska says since some of the crew members might not get the chance to visit Billings, she hopes the sailors will at least get a taste of Montana culture.
The USS Billings will be commissioned on August 3, 2019 in Key West, Flordia.