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Honoring All Who Served

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

A supplement of the Lynden Tribune & Ferndale Record


Veterans Tribute

Lynden Tribune | Wednesday, November 6, 2019 | Ferndale Record



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Lynden Tribune | Wednesday, November 6, 2019 | Ferndale Record

Veterans Tribute


Don Elsbree recalls his Korean experiences At the supposed end of the war, there was still hostile fire and Korea's orphans to take care of By Calvin Bratt

   LYNDEN ­— Don Elsbree has much to talk about from a life that will reach 87 years next Dec. 21. He is blessed with a good memory, a sense of story and history, and a soft heart for the very human aspect of it all.    He is familiar with the people and places of Whatcom County, from his earliest roots near Acme to later living in Bellingham near Elizabeth Park and finally, after marrying a Lynden girl, making the family home on Double Ditch Road.    He has also been close to loss, from an original family in which all four boys served in the U.S. military to going through the death of his oldest son, Doug, at age 61 in May 2018.    “I’ve had a good life. The Lord has been good to me,” he still says.    Elsbree served 16 months in Korea, part of his 1953-54 Army service, supposedly just as the Korean conflict was wrapping up. An armistice ending fighting had been signed, but little more than a barbed wire indicated the new border between a divided north and south Korea, and Elsbree and American forces certainly continued to experience hostile sniper action.    In the general demilitarized zone, “some of us made a mistake one time,” Elsbree said. In a jeep he and a buddy got disoriented in their direction and drove to within visible distance of the northern enemy side. “They had their guns pointed at us. Why that guy didn’t pull the trigger was only by the grace of God. We turned around and got out in a hurry.”    Elsbree experienced one of the harsh Korean winters that are part of the war’s legacy. He has a photo of himself in a parka when the temperature was 32 degrees below zero.    “Can you imagine sleeping in a tent when it’s that cold and you only have a potbellied oil stove?” he said. He and his tent buddies took turns staying up during the night to tend the stove.    The 155-milimeter “Long Tom” big See Elsbree on C4

Don Elsbree holds a jumbo 1920s Popeye pencil that somehow ended up in his possession and that he enjoys showing to others. (Calvin Bratt/Lynden Tribune)


Veterans Tribute

Lynden Tribune | Wednesday, November 6, 2019 | Ferndale Record

Elsbree Continued from C3

Photos document Don Elsbree’s 1953-54 stint with the U.S. Army in South Korea. Helping Korean war orphans was a part of that. The building at lower right was to be a school for children. (Courtesy photos/Don Elsbree)

guns used when Elsbree first arrived could shoot 16 miles. “I could never lift the shells — it took two of us little guys,” he said. The artillery fire gave way to mostly smallarms encounters.    “Walking guard duty at night was the most scary thing,” he said. “There were (enemy) snipers and they were good.”    The enemy seemed to be able to tread softly even through mine fields and infiltrate to do their damage, Elsbree said. After four men had been killed, a general ordered that the American soldiers would have all the ammunition they needed, he said.    Prisoner exchanges were made at the border, but Elsbree did not witness one.    He did see plenty of one of the very evident consequences of the war — Korean child orphans. The American service men were very sympathetic to this plight and did what they could, although soldiers were not supposed to physically touch the orphans, Elsbree said. Countries of the world sent food, clothing and teachers to try to help out.    He has a photo of a metal building that was put up to function as a school, and also of a despondent child crying in the street. The pity for Korean orphans led to many being adopted in the United States.    With two years given to his 2nd Division 204th Artillery unit, Elsbree was back in the United States in December 1954. He had been offered an attractive promotion in the Army if he would stay on another six months, but he wanted to get back home to his sweetheart in Lynden, Greta Zoerink. They were married in 1955.    Don Elsbree knows that he didn’t go through anything like his older brother Dick did in being part of the World War II storming of Omaha Beach and taking of Germany-held territory in Europe. “He had it a lot worse than I did. I didn’t get shot at much.”    His three brothers all served in the U.S. military. Don can still see, in his mind’s eye, his mother sitting at a window sadly, wistfully waiting for her sons to come home safely, and they all did — although Dick was wounded and receieved two Purple Hearts. Of when he was wounded, “to see your mom and dad crying when you’re 11 — you don’t forget that,” he said.    Elsbree will speak as a veteran at Lynden’s Fisher Elementary School this year.

Veterans Tribute

Lynden Tribune | Wednesday, November 6, 2019 | Ferndale Record

Whatcom has no Vietnam POW/MIAs 38 are from Washington State, among 1,587 nationally

and return of all prisoners, 2) the fullest possible accounting of the missing, and 3) the repatriation of remains of those not yet recovered who died while serving.

Bill requires POW/ MIA flag to be flown at certain places

By Calvin Bratt

   WHATCOM — The third Friday in September is now POW/MIA Day, a time to remember the sacrifices of prisoners of war and service members who are missing in action.    Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 9301 of Lynden conducted a brief service of remembrance on that day, Sept. 20, 2019, at Centennial Park at Fourth and Grover streets.    The event sponsors were not sure of the exact number or names of any POW/MIAs from Whatcom County. However, the National League of POW/MIA Families does have information for the Vietnam War.    The number of Americans missing and unaccounted-for from Vietnam is 1,587, according to the League. The number for Washington State is 38, with none of those being from Whatcom County.    The nearest to Whatcom, and the only

person listed from Skagit County, is Edward James Jacobs Jr. of Mount Vernon, an O5 (personnel command) in the Navy, killed in action in North Vietnam on Aug. 25, 1967, but his body was not recovered.    The unaccounted-for are listed as lost in North Vietnam, South Vietnam, Laos or Cambodia and being members of the U.S. Air Force, Army, Navy or Marine Corps.    Almost all of those listed as POW/MIA from Washington State are detailed as “killed in action, body not recovered” or “presumptive finding of death.” Only one was a prisoner of war.    The League’s threefold mission relating to the Vietnam War is to obtain: 1) the release

   WASHINGTON — A bill requiring the POW/MIA flag to be flown with the American flag is on the verge of becoming law. It was headed to President Trump’s desk for signature on Oct. 25, reported the National League of POW/MIA Families.    The bipartisan bill — the National POW/MIA Act, introduced in the Senate by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. — requires the POW/MIA flag to be flown with the American flag at certain memorials and federal buildings, including the White House and the U.S. Capitol, to honor unaccounted-for servicemen and -women from across more than 50 years of wars and conflicts.

C5    “As the sister of three veterans, I understand the importance of honoring the sacrifices of those who have fought courageously for our country,” said Warren, who is a 2020 presidential candidate.    The bill passed through both chambers of Congress.    “We owe it to those service members and their families to ensure that our nation never forgets their sacrifices,” Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa.    More than 81,000 American troops are still unaccounted for from conflicts including World War II, according to federal data.    Under current law, the POW/MIA flag is required to be displayed by the federal government on certain prominent federal properties only six days a year: Armed Forces Day, Memorial Day, Flag Day, Independence Day, Veterans Day and National POW/MIA Recognition Day.    “The POW/MIA Flag is representative of profound courage and sacrifice,” said Rep. Chris Pappas, D-N.H., who introduced the House version of the bill. “By proudly displaying this symbol outside of our federal buildings, memorials and national cemeteries, we are reaffirming our commitment to those service members and their families who have sacrificed beyond measure.”

Veterans Tribute

Lynden Tribune | Wednesday, November 6, 2019 | Ferndale Record


Sara Bernardy, a vet now active in community Meridian grad was in Operation Freedom Iraqi By Elisa Claassen for the Lynden Tribune and Ferndale Record

Sarah (Rowland) Bernardy, during her 2003-04 time in Iraq, found out what it is like to be in desert sandstorm. Inset: Today, back home and active in Whatcom County, Bernardy is coming onto the Meridian School Board and also will be involved in the 2020 U.S. Census in northwest Washington. (Courtesy photo/Sara Bernardy)

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DID YOU KNOW? On the South side of East Wiser Lake Road A lovely, rustic cemetery with Urn and Scatter gardens

The Lynden and Greenwood cemeteries are the final resting places for nearly 300 veterans for wars dating back to the Civil War.

   WHATCOM — Author Kelli Estes will visit Bellingham’s Village Books store on Friday, Nov. 15. Her book “Today We Go Home” includes a section about local Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran Sara (Rowland) Bernardy.    “When Sgt. Sara Rowland Bernardy (USA, Retired) met for our discussion, I could tell immediately that she was nervous about talking about her experiences. She served in Army communications and was with the first wave of U.S. forces. Sara really brought home for me what it is like to be female in the military, but even more, what it is like for service members to return home from deployment to a country that doesn’t care.”    Estes’ book weaves in pieces of Bernardy’s experience with that of others. One entry is that she wasn’t even permitted to take leave to return home for her grandfather’s funeral.    The 1995 Meridian High School graduate said she wanted to be in the military from an early age, in grade school.    “I wanted to be in the Army since the second grade.”    Why? Because of family members. In her case, it was two World War II veterans: a grandfather and an uncle in Cashmere, Washington, the home of Aplets and Cotlets candies. “They were both proud when I joined.”    As the military skipped her parents’ See Bernardy on C8

“Thank You for your service to us... and for maintaining the freedoms we have!” 360-354-1400 • 144 River Road, Lynden, WA 98264

Veterans Tribute

Lynden Tribune | Wednesday, November 6, 2019 | Ferndale Record



Veterans Tribute

Lynden Tribune | Wednesday, November 6, 2019 | Ferndale Record

Bernardy Continued from C6

Sara Bernardy was part of the Commo team shown here around the unit sign with a map of their travels to the Battle of Baghday International Airport in 2004. (Courtesy photo/Sara Bernardy)

generation, it is also skipping that of her children. Other than one of the children expressing curiosity about ROTC, they have other goals, she said.    “I enlisted in the Army at 17 with my parents’ signature on a waiver,” she said.    Bernardy managed to pursue a delayed entry program by going to basic training at Fort Payne, Alabama, between her junior and senior years of high school. She had a “normal” senior year of high school, participating in sports — volleyball and basketball — with the exception of being gone one weekend a month for training.    After high school graduation she was off to Fort Gordon, Georgia, for five months of advanced specialty training. She moved into the reserves and then became activeduty and had a choice — she chose Germany, U.S. Army Europe for her first duty station. Bernardy experienced both peacetime and duty within a war zone. A peacetime partnership was established with the Ukraine through NATO in which she was in the Ukraine and each side was learning each other’s weapons. She had two stints in Germany, several years stateside in Kansas, and time in Iraq.    There were hard times. At one point of her duty Bernardy was away for one year from her oldest daughter, while the girl was in kindergarten. (She is now 21.)    Sara explains: “My military occupational specialty was signal support communications, or ‘Commo’ as it is commonly referred to. In that field, I operated and maintained various communications equipment such as secure radio, telephone systems, tactical satellite, computer servers, software and hardware as well as network infrastructure.”    “Looking back, I am thankful for this

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Financial Advisor

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Lynden Tribune | Wednesday, November 6, 2019 | Ferndale Record

Veterans Tribute experience as it taught me, early on, the skills of professional communication as I drafted memos for leadership, field reports and appendices for standard operating procedure manuals. My technical communication skills were also put to use as I assisted the Brigade Command Staff on how to utilize the latest in communications technology. In 1996, I installed the first of its kind “hands-free” cellular in the colonel’s Humvee.”    In her first duty assignment, she was assigned to the 2nd Brigade, 1st Infantry Division. She was the first female to go where she went. It was Operation Iraqi Freedom 1 and 2 during 2003 and into 2004. She was at Baghdad International Airport with the 94th and then moved to Tikrit, Iraq, with the 565 Engineers group.    “At the time, females were not assigned to this type of unit,” she continues. “Since it was at the brigade level, the leadership figured it was an acceptable gray area since I wouldn’t likely be sent out with the infantry soldiers to train. They decided that my role in this assignment would be to work in the office as an administrative assistant (which was the exact thing I told my recruiter I did not want to do).”    As her career progressed, she was placed in more challenging information technology positions, “as well as the ultimate test of combat while I was deployed with the 130th Engineer Brigade, 94th Engineer Battalion to Iraq during the initial invasion. We were some of the first to enter as the 94th’s D-9 Combat bulldozers breached the berm on the border of Iraq and Kuwait and allowed the Armor and Infantry to pass through.”    While many think of Iraq's climate as “hot,” which it is, she said it is also quite cold — a land of “extremes.”    The engineering unit did the digging, building temporary fighting positions. Along the way, in the ancient country, they also found fossils, she said. She was setting up antennas for radio communication. In

addition to the military, there also were embedded media members from CNN making for an “interesting time.”    She stops to think a few times, has a long pause here and there, and continues. She left the Army in 2004 after 10 years put in.    “I wouldn’t change a thing,” she said of her military time. One of the hardest parts was becoming a parent while being activeduty. Her response: “You make it work. … The Army community is your family.”    While the military provided a good support system, one of the harder times for her was to go stateside and return to civilian life. When she had left, social media didn’t really exist. Communication was using a satellite phone at times. She was one of the “lucky” ones with access, and she didn’t abuse the privilege.    One day she saw a spent infantry group, returning from hard combat on foot. She used her access to hand over the phone so one of them could connect with loved ones. Making a call back otherwise then entailed driving through dangerous areas, which is not the case now. Looking back    One of the things that she would advise people regarding service in the military is “to remain open-minded and to not fall into the stereotypical way of thinking.” For example, many people tend to assume the male partner or husband is the one who served in the military. It happened to them when they were financing their home.    Bernardy is also open to meeting with other veterans who want to talk or share about their experiences.    She married her husband, Brent, another Meridian graduate, in 2006. Through him their children are fourth generation Meridian School District students. They had known each other in school as acquaintances, but reconnected after she returned home from the military.    She finished her college degree at

Thank You

To the many men & women in our community who have served and are currently serving our country as members of the Armed Forces. ~ Len Honcoop Vietnam 1969-1970



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All the family gathered around for a photo when mom Sara graduated in March from Western Washington University. (Courtesy photo/Sara Bernardy) Western Washington University on the GI Bill last year while her oldest daughter also was attending on campus. She found the campus to be “gracious and welcoming.”    Bernardy is currently employed by the U.S. Census Bureau as a Partnership Specialist for the upcoming 10-year census to be done in 2020. She is working with local governments, businesses, nonprofits,


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schools and community organizations in Whatcom, Skagit, and San Juan counties.    Knowing the importance of accuracy — and that this count will “affect the community for 10 years” — is a motivator for her.    Bernardy is also an unopposed candidate in the current election to take an open seat on the Meridian School Board.

Lynden Tribune | Wednesday, November 6, 2019 | Ferndale Record


Veterans Tribute

Lynden police officer does Coast Guard duty as well Matt Thompson served two months on U.S. southern border By Hailey Palmer

   LYNDEN ­— Matt Thompson has been a police officer with the Lynden Police Department for a little over a year now. That’s only one of his titles, however. For the past 13 years, Thompson has also served as a U.S. Coast Guard reserve.    The first weekend of every month, Thompson is down in Seattle working with the Coast Guard. For at least two weeks out of the year, he’s on active-duty deployment.    Thompson said going back and forth between the reserve and the police department is pretty seamless because Lynden is good about working with him and his schedule.    He said joining the Coast Guard Reserve gave him an opportunity to serve the country while also keeping his family in one place.    “We knew we wanted to keep our family in one geographical area instead of moving around to different locations on different deployments,” Thompson said. “I was always interested in law enforcement, so I decided to join the reserves. I’ve been deployed lots of different places, but have still been able to keep a civilian job and a regular location back home.”    He was recently deployed for two months in Texas, where he was helping with the humanitarian crisis in connection with migrants crossing the southern U.S. border.    “I was working at a [Border Patrol] processing center in McAllen, Texas, and was in charge of helping the Coast Guard,” Thompson said. “There were like 54 total Coast


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Lynden police officer Matt Thompson, left, receives a plaque at a Lynden City Council meeting on Oct. 7. Thompson recently spent two months of the summer on the U.S.-Mexico border in Texas with the Coast Guard Reserve. (File photo) Guard people there in the area I was at, and when people would get brought in we processed them. It’s not very glamorous.”    Thompson said he had other duties as well, such as dealing with medical transfers and whatever help the Border Patrol needed.    “My unit got deployed down there,” he said. “I’m a marine science technician, so I do environmental spill responses. But because they had so much stuff going on there, the Department of Homeland Security called up our department to go down there.”

   Thompson said the Coast Guard does a lot of humanitarian work after hurricanes and natural disasters.    Traveling to Seattle once a month and being deployed for at least two weeks out of the year hasn’t been easy on Matt, his wife Julie and their family, he said. With their fifth child on the way, Thompson missed his commitment in Seattle this past weekend and will have to make it up another time.    City employees each were able to give up as many as 24 hours of their vacation time

to a “shared vacation bank” in the summer in order for Thompson to go on his second round of reserve duty.    By policy, under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act, the city provides up to 21 days of military leave to its employees who are called up to active duty or training.    In October Lynden was given three plaques by a U.S. Department of Defense representative for supporting employees who do military reserve duty.

With Respect & Gratitude, we honor all who have served.

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Veterans Tribute

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Lynden Tribune | Wednesday, November 6, 2019 | Ferndale Record

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Lynden Tribune | Wednesday, November 6, 2019 | Ferndale Record


Veterans Tribute

Profile for Lynden Tribune

Veterans Day 2019  

Honoring all who have served

Veterans Day 2019  

Honoring all who have served