Bainbridge vet: Camp Fallujah, Iraq front lines are worlds apart

I appreciate Chad Schuster’s article (“Time to honor those who sacrificed,” May 28) honoring the veterans from Bainbridge Island. As one of the speakers at the ceremony, I was concerned my message wasn’t clear. The goal of my talk was to illustrate the different worlds I experienced while deployed to Camp Fallujah in Iraq, and how we defined the front line in Iraq.

Memorial Day

There’s still a war going on outside

I appreciate Chad Schuster’s article (“Time to honor those who sacrificed,” May 28) honoring the veterans from Bainbridge Island. As one of the speakers at the ceremony, I was concerned my message wasn’t clear. The goal of my talk was to illustrate the different worlds I experienced while deployed to Camp Fallujah in Iraq, and how we defined the front line in Iraq.

The first world is life in a large camp or Forward Operating Base (FOB). In these FOBs we had many of the amenities most Americans have. We had large dining facilities, laundry service, gyms, barbers, stores and coffee shops (even fighting soldiers need their lattes). I showered every night and got to call or email my family almost every morning.

Our monotonous days were periodically broken by mortar attacks. These mortar attacks were nothing like you see in the movies. The incoming alarm would sound. We would hurry off to our bunkers or reinforced buildings, and wait to hear two explosions (the insurgents would only fire two at a time) or the “all clear” call. I rarely felt scared during these attacks because they never hit anything important. Most of us found these attacks merely annoying and not particularly serious.

This safe, monotonous world changed the minute I left the comfort and security of the camp. Having the opportunity to visit a couple of combat outposts or battle positions, I saw how these soldiers lived. The outposts were rough. Barbwire, sandbags, and left-over armor were strategically placed to provide a good defense. Showers were limited to a pipe and plywood. Ten to 12 soldiers were stacked on top of each other in a 10- by 20-foot room. Hot food consisted of microwaved MREs or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

These soldiers were living at the edge of the battlefield. I could see convoys hitting improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and helicopters targeting insurgent houses. After a one-week stay in one of these outposts, I realized how good life was back at Camp Fallujah.

There is a front line in Iraq. This line is the concrete wall and barbwire surrounding the camp. We relaxed within these walls with many of us never venturing beyond them into danger. We were safe because of those soldiers who bravely lived and patrolled the front lines. They are the ones who I honored this past Memorial Day.

I appreciate this opportunity to clarify my talk.



Veterans should get a favorable look

Recently a letter (“Flower baskets go away… what’s next?” May 31) appeared regarding the lack of flower baskets on Winslow Way this Memorial day.

For four or so months now the city has been telling me, and others, that it is against state law for them to give veterans preference in hiring.

They have maintained that state law prevents them from treating veterans differently than any other “protected class.” After much conversation, the city has begrudgingly admitted that veterans preferences apply to civil service jobs.

RCW 41.04 and 73.16 and an Attorney General’s opinion from 1976 pretty well spell out what is supposed to be done and define it as a crime (civil) to not abide by the letter and spirit of the law. I invite anyone to check out these RCW’s or to call the state Department of Veteran Affairs in Olympia as I have. Ask for Heidi.

The material I was sent by the city that is the written policy they are following reflects an incorrect implementation of 41.04 on the employment application, total lack of reference to 73.16, lack of inclusion of widows and widowers as required by the law, and provision for rehiring veterans called to active duty.

With the suicide rate amongst the troops at am all-time high, I really don’t care about flower baskets on Winslow Way.

What was that holiday again? Memorial Day? Didn’t that used to have something to do with veterans, Flanders Field or something? Maybe the poppies are the tie-in to the flower baskets.

The mayor and Elray (Konkel, head of the city’s Finance Department) will tell you it is a semantic issue. Heidi, with the Department of Veteran Affairs, will tell you differently.


Fort Ward


Bugs aren’t made for all salmon

Insects have a role in salmon diets, but not nearly as large as reported (“Scientists give shoreline primer,” May 24).

Four studies have shown that, along our shorelines, about one-eighth of all juvenile salmon’s intake is insects. The figure for critically scarce Chinooks is a bit lower. Of those insects, about one-eighth are tree-dependent. So, roughly 1.5 percent of the biomass consumed by young salmon in tidewater is tree-obligate insects.

Surprisingly, most of the other insects make their way into the Puget Sound from fresh water: streams, wetlands and estuary plants. (Adult salmon consume virtually no insects.)

Trees along the beach are shady in some places, pretty, but largely unimportant to migrating salmon.


Manzanita Road


Ericksen should remain as-is

This is in response to J. Cutter’s letter (“Council should open Ericksen now,” April 26). Believe me, this is not a response from a “minority” member of this community. You are in a minority of this community wanting Ericksen Avenue opened up. This discussion has been going on almost 30 years, and the “gutless council” has been acting the right way.

I don’t know how long you have been on the island but many of us really don’t want to see another highway running along SR-305; it’s not necessary. I personally would like police protection for the cars that cut through Hildebrand Lane to get through to Winslow Way. Some of the businesses along Hildebrand really don’t care if it is open. Many of them enjoy the little park and are happy to have some place to eat their lunch on a good day (which we don’t have very often), but it is nice to have a place to relax in.

Yes, Ericksen is getting more commercialized, but so what? There are still some homes there so I don’t think they should be disregarded just because there are fewer of them.

If your looking for a “big” city, move to the “other side.” I’m sure they would love to have you.




Girls LAX are still winners

Thanks to the Bainbridge girls lacrosse team for playing their hearts out for all of us (“Reliving a nightmare,” May 21). I was watching with a group of coaches from around the league, while occasionally going over to rabble-rouse with the BI crowd as a cheerleader.

All of the coaches commented on how well the girls played, how composed they were, how much heart and skill they had, and how well-coached they were. They deserve to hold their heads high and appreciate the positives of the season. It was one of the best women’s lacrosse’s battles this state has experienced. It’s the hard-fought battles that go down in history, in memory.

The fact that we now have such good competition is testament, in large part, to the generous efforts of the Bainbridge lacrosse community. They make jamborees, camps, and other learning opportunities open to the entire lacrosse league.

Special thanks should go to Coach Tommila, who volunteers her time to teach and coach other teams’ players on the Select and Regional team to improve skills for all.

If you look around the league, you’ll notice numerous alumni coaching, umpiring, and leading the league. It is this tradition of giving back to the community that continues to make Bainbridge proud and great! Thank you all and congratulations to athletes in all sports who performed so well this year.


Bainbridge girls lacrosse founder and coach (1987-97)


We need a real solution

I was amused by the front page story on May 24 (“And the average ferry rider is…”) reporting on the ferry customer survey commissioned by the state Transportation Commission.

In case you missed it, here are a few highlights:

•Most people would prefer lower fares rather than higher fares;

•On peak morning sailings, most people are going to work or school;

•Many people are happy with the ferry service, while others are dissatisfied;

•Cars and walking on are the most popular ways to board the ferries;

• Bainbridge riders have higher incomes on average than those from Bremerton;

•One Bainbridge activist is worried that fares may rise now that the state has discovered that islanders have plenty of money.

Therefore, the survey must be wrong and another survey is called for.

In all the no-think chatter about how to fix the ferries, one point rarely mentioned is the near impossibility of attracting and empowering bright, energetic, motivated and revenue-driven management talent to an organization run by two of the most mediocrity-promoting and inefficient institutions ever invented – government and labor unions.

This nightmarish partnership is why you can have thousands of relatively affluent people ($95,889 average household income, according to the survey) captive on a boat for about 70 minutes a day, five days a week, and not be able to figure out how to earn any more revenue than you get from a few vending machines and an irregularly operated self-serve canteen that specializes in popcorn and coffee brewed by the gallon.

There are plenty of ways to earn more revenue, but the choice instead is to hamstring the enterprise, then bumble about with endless committees, community forums and surveys.


Fletcher Bay