If you wave to grand marshal Paul Hoffman at the Rose Parade on Saturday, imagine that a buddy of his sits right there beside him.
Hoffman is a 1978 Sonoma Valley High alum, an injured Iraq War veteran and one of several "Heroes and Helpers" who'll be honored at the 120th annual parade and festival in downtown Santa Rosa.
Late in 2004, Hoffman, who'd served earlier as a Marine, was in Iraq with Petaluma's 579th National Guard Engineer Battalion. As a small convoy prepared to head out from a base, he expected to drive the lead Humvee.
But there was an assignment switch, and fellow Sonoma County soldier Michael Ottolini, who was set to ship out the next day for hernia surgery, volunteered to drive the first vehicle.
"I'm going to be going home soon, anyway," the Petaluman said.
Ottolini died when the forward Humvee set off a roadside bomb. He's often on the mind of Hoffman, who later suffered serious injuries of his own.
At the Rose Parade on Saturday, Hoffman, a retired staff sergeant, will be one of six grand marshals honored for their service to others. Selfless volunteers and champions of worthy causes will be scattered throughout the procession.
"It's an honor be asked," said wounded vet Hoffman, "and a little scary.
"It'll be the first time in a while that I've put on my dress uniform."
<b>AFTER THE PARADE,</b> magician extraordinaire Ken Garr, long the proprietor of Santa Rosa's former Mostly Magic Shop, will make a deadly menace disappear with the wave of a wand.
OK, that's a bit of an over-sell. What Ken will do is perform two shows at First United Methodist Church on Montgomery Drive, then donate a share of the proceeds to Imagine No Malaria.
The campaign donates mosquito nets that save lives through much of Africa.
Ken's 3 p.m. show is more for kids, his 7:30 show more for non-kids.
<b>A $500 GUITAR</b> donated by Stanroy Music Center is one of many treasures to be auctioned at Friday's pasta feed to sustain the late Sue Hufford's music program in the Mark West schools.
Sue and her mother-in-law, Sharon, died in that horrific, mid-March car crash on Highway 12 at Farmers Lane.
Leadership Santa Rosa classmates of Sue's husband, Jay, will host the community meal at Mark West Elementary. Doors open at 5 and a classic Sonoma County meal of Pasta King penne, Cousteaux Bakery bread and Cold Stone Creamery ice cream will be served at about 5:30.
Tickets are at <a href="http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/665259">brownpapertickets.com</a> and they'll also be at the door.
<i>Chris Smith is at 521-5211 and email@example.com.</i>