Applegate resident Debbie Hicks is on a mission to buy 150 new pairs of sunglasses.

Applegate resident Debbie Hicks is on a mission to buy 150 new pairs of sunglasses.

She doesn't have a fetish for sunglasses, although she now has 68 pairs.

The Wiley X sunglasses she's getting are for the Oregon Army National Guard soldiers from Jackson and Josephine counties deploying to Iraq early this summer.

The glasses were among three items on a "wish list" provided by an officer with the Guard's 1st Battalion of the 186th Infantry, headquartered in Ashland.

"These are the highest ballistic glasses on the market," said Hicks who has stepped forward to help the unit in past deployments. "These are the cream of the crop. But they are very expensive."

The Romer-style glasses help protect a soldier's eyes but cost $100 each. However, the company is giving her the glasses at a substantially reduced price as a show of support for the soldiers, she said.

"I couldn't do it if I had to pay the retail price," she said, noting she has raised some $1,600 out of the roughly $3,100 needed.

"I'm only short about $1,500 to get the rest of the glasses," she added. "My hope is that all of them can leave with Wiley sunglasses."

The American Red Cross office in Medford, where Hicks is a volunteer, has set up a fund for the unit's wish list. Checks to the fund should be made out to the American Red Cross, earmarked for the Guard fund and sent to 60 Hawthorne St., Medford, OR 97504.

The soldiers from the 1/186th are among more than 600 members of the Oregon Army National Guard's 1st Battalion of the 186th Infantry bound for Iraq. The unit left for training at the Army's Camp Roberts in California earlier this month. It is expected to be sent to Fort Stewart, Ga., for additional training May 11 before going to Iraq in early summer.

The 1/186th has units in Medford, Grants Pass, Klamath Falls, Roseburg and Coos Bay.

It's part of the Oregon Guard's Tigard-based 41st Infantry Combat Brigade Team, which is sending 2,800 troops from Oregon and some 650 more from other states to Iraq. They are expected to be there at least 10 months, returning home in spring 2010.

Capt. Brian Moyer, 29, of Central Point, an Iraq War veteran who is deploying for his second tour, included the Wiley sunglasses in a short list of items that would come in handy for the citizen soldiers. Other items in the list included special flashlights and knives.

"We are so lucky to have good people like you supporting us when we are away," he wrote her in an e-mail earlier this year. "While every soldier has their own preference, these items would be a very big hit."

Although the military provides the basics, the additional items would be useful for the soldiers, Hicks said, adding she later hopes to work on getting each of the soldiers the flashlights and knives on the list.

She is often seen outside a store in the Medford area with a red basket, a mannequin of a soldier in desert camo and a sign requesting contributions for the cause.

"I just let them know it is support of our soldiers," she said, adding, "but I can tell you this is the hardest time to try to raise money. So many people want to help, but they can't."

Hicks can be reached at the American Red Cross office at 779-3773.

Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 776-4496 or e-mail him at pfattig@mailtribune.com.