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Dixie Chopper contest turns into special ops mission

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Wife and daughters film veteran's love of lawn mower.

| August 18, 2010

ROCKWALL, Texas – Serving as a consultant in war-torn Iraq, retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Tom Sands obviously loves his country.

But Sands is also devoted to Dixie Chopper, the Indiana-based lawn mower manufacturer that is celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2010. In fact, Sands loves his Dixie Chopper mower so much that the last thing he did before heading to Iraq earlier this year was mow his grass – even though he had already cut it the day before.

“He mowed one more time,” wife Jennifer Sands said in a video submitted for the “Who Loves Their Dixie Chopper” contest, “and then he washed it, he waxed it and he put it away. He loves his Dixie Chopper.”

While Sands was in Iraq serving as a private contractor this spring, his wife and daughters Nicole, 9, and Brooke, 13, created the video and secretly submitted it to Dixie Chopper for the YouTube contest.

The Sands video creation was an overwhelming winner in the “Who Loves Their Dixie Chopper” contest. And on Aug. 11, Dixie Chopper marketing manager Kraig Richmond and communications and public relations director, Eric Bernsee, flew to Texas to surprise Lt. Col. Sands with his prize -- a new 2010 Dixie Chopper Magnum mower.

“You made my day,” Sands said after a surprise ceremony to present the mower.

“They made your year,” said wife Jennifer.

The 47-year-old Sands, a USAF veteran of the Afghanistan war, was in between stints in Iraq when the mower was presented. He was headed back to the Mideast later in August. A veteran of 20 years in Air Force special ops, Sands is not usually so easily fooled.

“I had no idea. None,” Sands said. “I wish I could lie and say I did, but I didn’t.”

Sands is a fitting winner for Dixie Chopper, which is currently paying homage to Armed Forces personnel past and present with a “Hometown Heroes” rebate program on a new mower purchase.

“While this contest was open to anyone who wanted to share why they love their Dixie Chopper mower, having a veteran Air Force officer chosen as the winner is truly an extension of our ‘Hometown Heroes’ program,” Dixie Chopper president and CEO Gary A. Morgan said.

So loyal is her husband to Dixie Chopper that when Jennifer and Tom attended a party in costume – she went as Dixie, and he as Chopper.

“So everywhere we go, everyone knows how much he loves his Dixie Chopper,” Jennifer said.

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