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Veterans Life A Sound Publishing Monthly Magazine

November 2013

By Jessica GInet Texan Randy Hardin spent 15 years aboard ships in the Navy before he was assigned to his first shore duty. Hardin enlisted at the age of 18 in the Navy in his hometown of Longview, Texas in 1974. He arrived at bootcamp two days after his high school graduation and spent the next 30 years in the United States Navy. Hardin retired as a command master chief on April 9, 2004. “My first ship was the USS Sperry (AS-12), a subtender stationed out of San Diego. From there I went to the USS Inflict (MSO-45), a mine-sweeper stationed in Little Creek, Virginia,” Hardin said. “Then I served on the USS Point Loma (AGDS-2) and then the USS Bagley (FF-1069), both out of San Diego. That took up 15 years. Then I was assigned to my first shore duty in New Orleans, Louisiana.” Hardin applied for and was accepted to the command master chief program and left shore duty early to

VETERAN PROFILE/ Randy hardin complete his training. Before that, however, Hardin was an electronics technician. Hardin made chief in 1984 and was promoted to master chief petty officer in 1990; he received orders as a command master chief in 1992. According to the Navy, a command master chief petty officer is the most senior enlisted sailor in a United States Navy. The command master chief serves as a liaison between commissioned officers and enlisted sailors. Hardin echoes this, saying, “My job as a command master chief was to serve people. I helped sailors and their families while also helping the ship complete its mission.” As a command master chief, Hardin was also called upon to ensure active communication throughout the chain of command while also upholding the Navy ethos and Navy core values. His first tour as a command master chief was USS Texas (CGN-39) in 1992. The ship has since been decommissioned.

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“It’s long gone — probably razor blades by now,” Hardin said. The USS Texas was stationed at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard for refurbishing when it was decommissioned. Hardin, not one to wait idly for anything, transferred to Newport, Rhode Island, as an instructor for leader training at the US Navy Senior Enlisted Academy. Hardin was selected as Command Master Chief of the USS Enterprise (CVN65) for two years. His final duty station was Naval Station Kitsap-Bangor. Hardin oversaw shore commands in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Alaska. While serving in an active leadership role, Hardin continued his education. He received a Bachelors of Business Administration from Northwood University and a graduate certificate in organizational leadership from Chapman University. Several months before retiring, he researched and started his own business, Abiding Home Care, which

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Orthodox Church in Poulsbo. “I serve on the parish council and with the finance committee,” he said. Hardin has some advice for those ready to retire: “Be flexible. Don’t think you’re going to do just one thing. Expand your vision and look for ways to continue to serve.” He also has some sage advice for the younger folks looking into the military as a career. “The military should always be an option,” he said. He cautions, however: “It’s not a job, though. It’s a way of life. You’ve got to be ready to adopt the traditions, structure and hierarchy and make it your own.” Hardin is proud of his service in the Navy. He’s also proud to be a veteran. “A veteran, to me, is a hero,” he said. “I don’t want to get into politics (Hardin quickly mentions recent events like the national veteran memorial closures), but I don’t think we treat them well enough.”


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he ran with his wife Jerrine, from 2004 to 2010. In 2010, he sold the business to Martha & Mary. “I was part of the deal,” he said with a laugh. “I have served at Martha & Mary as the Administrator of Home and Community Services since 2010.” Both Hardin and his wife came from families that actively participated in the care and nurturing of their elderly relatives. Hardin recalled memories of his family packing up the car with cleaning supplies and food and sundries. His family would go once a week and


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Randy Hardin

clean relatives’ homes, stock the pantry and refrigerator with food and prepared meals and spend time with them. Hardin said they would consistently do this, visiting those relatives that still lived independently and those that were residing at nursing homes. “The culture and economy has pushed the care of our elderly family away from us,” Hardin said. “My guiding principle (in starting a home care business) was that I wanted to go to bed each night knowing I had helped someone. That’s why I was also so open to being acquired by Martha & Mary,” he said. Hardin has lived in Kitsap County for the past 15 years. That’s not to say that his home state doesn’t appeal to him. “Like any good Texan, I yearn for Texas sometimes,” he said with a laugh. Hardin is very active in his job at Martha & Mary. He is also very involved with his church, St. Elizabeth

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On the inside

This month’s Veterans Life is dedicated to all veterans as we celebrate their day on Nov. 11. On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, an armistice, or temporary cessation of hostilities, was declared between the Allied nations and Germany in the First World War, then known as “The Great War.” Commemorated as Armistice Day, beginning the following year, Nov. 11 became a legal federal holiday in the United States in 1938. In the aftermath of World War II and the Korean War, Armistice Day became Veterans Day, a holiday dedicated to American veterans of all wars. Veterans of all wars and of service during peace time can be proud of their service and we hope you enjoy the stories we have this month to honor Veterans Day. Reporter Kevan Moore writes about the history of Veterans Day and about the local observances planned on Nov. 11 here in Kitsap County. Other special Veterans Day observances also are listed. There’s a story about Art Baker, who served 20 years in the Navy and the Army, who now gives his time volunteering at a Port Orchard elementary school. After sustaining severe head injuries in a car accident, Baker uses his time with the school children to keep his mind sharp. Reporter Chris Chancellor writes about Baker’s miracle comeback. Readers also get to meet Robert Gossett of Bremerton who recently was reunited with a Navy Good Conduct medal that belonged to his father, Edmund. Through a series of connections and coincidences, the medal found its way back to the Gossett home where it has been placed in a special location in the dining room china cabinet. In another story, Silverdale business woman Jenny Thomas shares her memories of the year she spent in Vietnam working for the American Red Cross at the height of the Vietnam War. She’s written a book about her experiences and hopes to show another side of the war to readers. This month’s veteran profile by Jessica Ginet is about Texan Randy Hardin who spent 15 years aboard ships in the Navy before he was assigned to his first shore duty. Hardin enlisted at 18 in the Navy in his hometown of Longview in 1974. He arrived at bootcamp two days after his high school graduation and spent the next 30 years in the U.S. Navy. The Bond this month comes from Navy veteran Luciano Marano who served on the USS Lincoln. He’s a staff writer at the Bainbridge Island Review and has written for Veterans Life before. He tells us about Veterans Day from a veteran’s perspective. Please feel free to send you comments and suggestions about Veterans Life to We’d love to hear from you.

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On the cover: A local veteran displays his service proudly on his back at a Veterans Day observance last year at the Kitsap County Fairgrounds. Photo by Kevan Moore.

INSIDE Veterans Day Veterans Day has roots that date back to Nov. 11, 1919. And the day is always celebrated in fine fashion in Kitsap County.


A veteran volunteer

Navy and Army veteran Art Baker spends time in the classroom. But his volunteer work is helping him as much as the kids.

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A brief look at the history of Veterans Day Staff Report Veterans Day as we know it today has roots that go back to Nov. 11, 1919, which was declared Armistice Day by President Woodrow Wilson. Major hostilities of World War I were formally ended at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, when the Armistice with Germany went into effect. “To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations,” President Wilson said in his declaration of the holiday. In 1945, World War II

veteran Raymond Weeks from Birmingham, Alabama, had the idea to expand Armistice Day to celebrate all veterans, not just those who died in World War I. Weeks led a delegation to Gen. Dwight Eisenhower, who supported the idea of National Veterans Day. Weeks led the first national celebration in 1947 in Alabama and annually until his death in 1985. In his 1954 Veterans Day Proclamation, President Dwight D. Eisenhower called for the formation of a Veterans Day National Committee to oversee national planning and coordination of the Veterans Day observance. He named the Administrator of Veterans’ Affairs, Harvey V. Higley, as chairman of committee and called on the heads of all departments and agencies of the executive branch of the government to assist the committee in every way

Photo courtesy of the Eisenhower Library

President Eisenhower signs the bill naming Veterans Day. The photo was taken on June 1. 1954, at the White House with representatives of Veterans organizations looking on. possible. Administrator Higley called together leaders of veterans’ groups and asked them to serve on the committee. The original committee consisted

of associate chairmen from the following organizations: The American Legion, American Veterans of World War II and Korea (AMVETS), Disabled American Veterans, Marine Corps League, United Spanish War Veterans, and the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States. The full committee consisted of representatives from: the American National Red Cross; American Veterans

Committee, Inc.; Army Mutual Aid Association; Army and Navy Union, U.S.A.; Blinded Veterans Association; Catholic War Veterans of the U.S.A.; Coast Guard League; Disabled Officers Association; Fleet Reserve Association; Jewish War Veterans of the United States; Military Order of the Purple Heart, Inc.; Military Order of the World Wars; National Jewish Welfare Board;

National Society – Army of the Philippines; National Tribune; Navy Mutual Aid Association; Regular Veterans Association; United Indian War Veterans, U.S.A.; and the Women’s Forum on National Security. Many of these organizations continue to serve on the current Veterans Day Committee. The committee meets three times a year in Washington, D.C., to plan Veterans Day activities, including selecting a national Veterans Day poster, recognizing regional observances that serve as model events to honor America’s veterans, and hosting the national ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery. The committee also has an interest in ensuring that younger generations understand the true meaning of Veterans Day, and the sacrifices veterans have made to secure and defend the freedoms of the United States of America. The committee produces a teacher resource guide and distributes it nationwide. The guide includes suggested activities for Veterans Day programs and information for students of all ages.

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Kitsap Veterans Day event is one of state’s best By KEVAN MOORE Local Kitsap County organizations work together every year to host what they describe as the largest Veterans Day program in the state of Washington. The free event takes place in the Pavilion at the Kitsap County Fairgrounds and more than 1,800 people are expected to attend. Doors open at 9 a.m. so that visitors can view the many displays and visit the 24 booths. Vintage military uniforms and vehicles will be on display. Tom Danaher, a pubic affairs officer at Naval Base Kitsap, said that no events or activities are slated to take place on base, as the day is for veterans, not active-duty members of the military. “But you can bet your bottom dollar I’ll be (at the Pavilion),” said Danaher, a former Navy surface warfare officer who served for 30 years. Danaher, who has served on the event’s planning committee in past years, was quick to single out former Navy Captains Earl and Sandra Smith, of the lead sponsoring BremertonOlympic Peninsula Navy League, for their tireless

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years of effort to make the event so successful. “What will we do when they decide they won’t do this anymore?” Danaher asked. “They’re irreplaceable.” Sandra Smith served for 27 years and Earl Smith served for 35 years. “We’re both Vietnam veterans,” Mrs. Smith said. “We didn’t exactly get the welcome home that people are getting now. So, we want to make sure people are getting the recognition they deserve.” The actual program begins at 10:30 a.m. with pomp and circumstance of a very formal Parade of Colors. Rear Admiral Dietrich Kuhlmann, Commander, Submarine Group Nine and Guy Stitt, Bremerton Navy League Ambassador will welcome everyone. Kitsap County Commissioner Josh Brown will introduce all of the Military and political dignitaries. The Bremerton High School Marching Band will provide the music. This year, the keynote speaker is Lourdes E. AlvaradoRamos, Director of the Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs. “Alfie”

Alvarado-Ramos joined WDVA in 1993 and was appointed Deputy Director in 2005. She has a unique understanding of the agency, having led the Veterans Services Division and each of the State Veterans Homes as Superintendent. Alvarado-Ramos served 22 years on active duty, retiring in August 1993 as Command Sergeant Major and Troop Command Sergeant Major of Madigan Army Medical Center in Fort Lewis, Washington. During her military career, she was the recipient of numerous awards and decorations to include the Legion of

Save The Date Where: Kitsap Sun Pavilion Kitsap County Fairgrounds When: Monday, Nov. 11 Time: Doors open at 9 a.m., close at 1 p.m. Admission: Free Information Booths: 24 booths with military related displays, including vintage uniforms and vehicles Food: Donated by Crazy Eric’s Drive-In, Costco Music: Bremerton High School Marching Band

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Red Cross worker saw Vietnam in a different light By Leslie Kelly The year was 1967 and Jenny Thomas was on a plane, heading to Vietnam to work for the American Red Cross. She was 23 and had just graduated from college with a degree in sociology. “It was like a morgue on the plane, very few saying little and most of us saying nothing,” she writes. “We were lost in thoughts about the immediate future. I, too, was pensive, too naive to even think about coming home in a body bag.” A young woman who grew up in southern California, Thomas was so taken by a television program about the children in orphanages in Vietnam, she sought out a way to get there and help care for those kids. “They were considered half-breeds,” she said. “They were part Vietnamese and part American, French or something else. Because of that, they weren’t accepted in their own country and they were just being warehoused in these orphanages. Some of them, too, had parents, but their fathers were fighting for the Viet Cong and their mothers couldn’t afford to care for them.” She looked into enlisting in the military or going to work for the Peace Corp. But only the Red Cross would guarantee her that she’d be sent to Vietnam. So she signed up for a year’s service in DaNang, South Vietnam. Those days seem like a long time ago to Thomas, who today sells real estate in Silverdale. But Thomas knows that her experiences have helped her to be the person she is. And her hope is that others can share her experiences — and see the Vietnam War in a different light — by reading her book, “A Different Light, The Vietnam War from a Woman’s Point of View.” Her book was published in 2010 through a selfpublishing company, Xlibris. Since publishing the book, Thomas has done most of the book promotion herself. The year she spent in Vietnam — October 1967 to October 1968 — is told in first-person in her book, based on the diary she kept that year. “I wrote every day,” Thomas said. “I also wrote letters home and my father kept them and I used them in my book, too.” Her work in Vietnam for

the Red Cross consumed her days. She kept records and was a communications assistant, which meant she got to relay messages from home to U.S. service members. “Sometimes it was great,” she said. “I got to tell young soldiers that they were fathers — that they had new babies at home.” But she also had to tell them about deaths back home, or houses fires that had affected family members, or even relay deaths of military personnel from where she was to Red Cross officials back in the States. On her days off, or after work, she spent time in the orphanages helping with the children. “It was worse than I knew from what I’d seen on TV,” she said. “The Catholic sisters were doing what they could, but there were so many children — hundreds of them. The places were dirty and there was very little to feed the children. And all of them were starving for attention.” From time to time, she’d take along GIs and the children were so taken with them. “One little girl would just cling to this Marine lieutenant’s leg, every time he came,” she said. “She wouldn’t turn loose of him.” Thomas experienced two events in her year in Vietnam where she thought her life was over. One was when she came face-to-face with a Viet Cong who held a gun to her. “It was one night during the Tet offensive,” she said. “The Viet Cong hit a 500 gallon tank of jet fuel and the sky just lit up like it was day time. I had to get pictures of it so I ran up to the roof of one of the buildings in the complex and ran right into a man with a rifle. We locked eyes.” But just that minute, a soldier arrived and told her to run and she did. The other time was also during the Tet offensive when everything “just blew up” and a soldier with an M16 told her to get in a bunker. She hid there for three hours before she was able to come out to the compound where she was staying. “It was difficult to know who the good guys were,” she said. “Many times the Viet Cong were just regular people who worked in the villages and even cut the generals’ hair by day,” she

Leslie Kelly /Staff Photo

Author Jenny Thomas discusses her time in Vietnam. said. “They wore regular clothes. But by night they’d put on what we called their black pajamas and they’d kill

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home. Her mother died of polio when she was only 3 years old and her father had remarried a woman who was abusive to her, she said. Her childhood was not easy. Despite that, she had a calling to help others and stayed working for the Red Cross for several years after Vietnam. She was assigned to work in San Francisco, two years in Germany and then the naval base in Bremerton. There, she met her husband and they spent their lives in Bremerton and had three sons. She’s been married 38 years and now has three grandchildren. She still sells homes and is in the

middle of writing her second book, “The Color Plaid.” “It’s about my father, who was a B-17 bomber pilot in World War II,” she said. “He flew 35 missions and always brought his crews back safely.” The title refers to a small piece of plaid fabric that she learned from her father in his later years, he had carried in his wallet since the day her mother died. It was a piece of her dress. As for the title of her first book, it comes from the fact that she experienced two Vietnams when she was there. See light, page 12

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By Leslie Kelly Robert Gossett holds the bronze medal in the palm of his aging hand. A smile crosses his face. “I never knew he had it,” Gossett said of his father Edmund Gossett. “He never spoke of it.” But the U.S. Navy Good Conduct medal engraved with Edmund’s name and the year 1932 is once again, back home with the family that cherishes it. The journey began several months ago when Silverdale area resident Terry McCue bought a tool box at a garage sale. As McCue was going through the tool box, he found a Good Conduct Medal with the inscription “Edmund Gossett 1932” on it. Not knowing what to do with the medal, he gave it to Tony Laliberte, a foreman at Holmes Mechanical Inc., near Keyport. “Terry had worked for us and he knew we had a collection of old things that we display on the shop wall,” said Ronnie Williams, administrative assistant at the company. “Most of what we have are old mechanical equipment plates that we put on display.” But Laliberte took the medal and after looking at it, left it on his desk. It was Williams who picked it up one day and noticed the inscription on it. “Tony said he had hoped to find who it belonged to but hadn’t had time to,” she said. “So I asked him if I could look into it and he said ‘Go ahead.’” She went to work looking on the Internet at military websites, hoping she could find the name of Edmund Gossett. All she was able to find was a man by that name who had lived in Snyder,

Washington years ago. But Williams wasn’t even sure where that was. As a last resort, she phoned a life-long

Leslie Kelly /Staff Photo

Robert holds the medal. friend who had just moved to the area to go to work as a veterans representative at WorkSource in Redmond. That friend, Antonia Martinez, decided to research and found that the family had stayed pretty much in the Kitsap area. “I was looking for a registry of families that might help,” she said. “But when I didn’t come up with anything I decided to call the Kitsap Historical Society. I figured they had to know.” She was put in touch with KHS researcher Bonnie Chrey. “I recognized the name Gossett,” said Chrey. “I had some friends with that name so I decided to give them a call.” Her friends, Robert and DeAnna Gossett, were excited to get the call and told her that Robert’s father’s name was Edmund. “All the pieces just fell into place,” said Chrey. A meeting was arranged and the Gossetts and Chrey

went to Holmes Mechanical and met Laliberte and Williams. Williams placed the medal in Robert Gossett’s hand and they all smiled for photographs. Gossett said his father was stationed on the USS Tennessee from 1928 to 1934, in Bremerton. He was born in Indiana, but settled in Bremerton after his Navy service. He spent his career working in Shop No. 38, Robert said of his father. Following in his father’s footsteps, Robert also worked at the shipyard in Shop 99 for almost 38 years, retiring in 1987. He’s actually the third generation in the family to work in the shipyard, Robert’s wife DeAnna said. Robert’s mother’s father, Charles Erickson, worked in Shop 11. Getting the medal back in family was “a pleasant surprise,” Robert said. “My Dad never spoke of it,” he said. “But it must have been something that meant something to him because he kept it with him every day at work.” Robert thinks that when his father retired from the shipyard, he probably checked his toolbox back in, forgetting that the medal was in it. Most likely, the tools were among those that became outdated and were sold off by the shipyard, only to eventually end up in someone’s garage sale. Now, the medal has a special place in the china cabinet in Robert and DeAnna’s home. “It’s where it should be,” said DeAnna. Williams agrees. “Like my friend Antonia said, this medal had a life of its own,” Williams said. “And we finally got it to the right person.”

PA hosts ‘Stand Down’ PORT ANGELES — Hundreds of North Olympic Peninsula veterans gathered Oct. 3 at the Clallam County Fairgrounds to get information and services and meet other veterans. More than 250 veterans had checked in by noon at the Veterans Stand Down sponsored by Voices for Veterans, a nonprofit dedicated to assisting homeless veterans on the Peninsula. Those in need could get services ranging from haircuts to employment, while others showed up simply for the camaraderie. Breakfast and lunch were served. More than 20 organizations were present, from a local animal-care organization providing food, snacks and toys for veterans’ pets, to state and federal public services. The longest line was for haircuts, where veterans waited an hour or more for military-smart trims. Free clothing and bedding, hygiene kits and outdoor equipment were available, including a stack of backpacks donated by the Army Reserves. A few of the veterans who attended the event were homeless.

“It’s hard to get them to come in,” said Cheri Tinker, director of Sarge’s Place, a veterans shelter in Forks. By noon, about five homeless veterans had been identified and were being offered services, and more could come in later, said Maggie Roth, who managed the intake table at the stand down. The assembled veterans did not report having problems — yet — due to the partial federal shutdown. Many of the services offered to veterans are managed at the state or local level and Veterans Administration medical benefits are not affected by the shutdown. Veterans attending served during Korean and Vietnam wars, during the Cold War and in Iraq, Afghanistan. Crew members of the Coast Guard Cutter Swordfish served lunch to veterans. The youngest veterans were in their early 20s, while the oldest was Charlie Nickles, 87, of Port Angeles, a Navy veteran who served on two transport ships from 1945-47. Nickles had never been to a Stand Down before, and his eyes sparkled as he took in the many service mem-

bers around him. “It was quite a surprise,” Nickles said. At the other end of the spectrum, youthful veterans said they found the older veterans had paved the path for the coming generations. “It’s more of a brotherhood,” said Jerrod Brown, 26, of Sequim, who served in the Navy as a master at arms, the Navy’s military police force. The older generation of veterans has welcomed the new, young Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, Brown said. One of the more surprising needs Thursday was food and supplies for cats, said Cheryl Bowers, president of New Leash on Life, a nonprofit group that helps lowincome animal lovers. “We want to keep the veterans’ pets out of our animal shelters,” Bowers said. By noon, gallon bags of dog food and baggies of dog toys and chews, flea treatments and wormers were still available, but Bowers said the cat supplies had run out early in the morning. For more information phone 360-417-2383, 360640-0296 or 360-302-1285.

You receive it on Graduation Day. But it’s never handed to you. Because when it’s a degree from Columbia College, it’s a degree that demands effort and rewards hard work. That’s a notion our students at 18 campuses on military bases truly understand.

Chatter Talk about veterans from around the web Tour glass On Nov. 9, the Tacoma Museum of Glass joins the national celebration of Veterans Glassblowing Day with free admission to veterans and their families and discounted hands-on glass fusing workshops. Vets and their families are invited to create fused glass art, one-ofa-kind glass tile, pendants, or magnets. Design it and the museum fires it for you. The event happens from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., and workshops start on the hour. Cost is $20 for those ages 6 and up. The museum is at 1801 Dock St. in Tacoma.

Vet jobs Home Depot’s support of the nation’s military extends beyond the new HomeTown community as they offer plenty of resources to veterans. The company recently launched a new website

highlighting the commitment, w w w.homedepotmilitar y. com, and has offered its free “Military Skills Translator Tool,” designed to help translate and match an applicant’s military skills to positions that might offer the best career fit. VetJobs, G.I. Jobs magazine and Military Spouse magazine have all named Home Depot a top military-friendly employer.

Bowl for vets Bowling For Veterans, a fundraiser to help raise funds for local veterans programs through the Fred Needham VFW Post 2269, will be Nov. 3, from noon to 3 p.m. at Hi-Joy Bowl, 1011 Bethel Ave., in Port Orchard. Registration is $15 for three games for all ages and there will also be a raffle. For more information, call Mike Lacari at 360-876-2669 or 360-649-1954.

Duty calls Bainbridge Performing Arts will host a special artist reception for Bill Woods on Veterans’ Day, Monday, Nov. 11. The BPA Gallery presents “Duty Calls, Honor Serves,” an exhibition featuring dramatic and compelling images of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and Arlington National Cemetery by veteran and photographer Bill Woods. The exhibit includes fundraising and a raffle of two American flags that have flown over the U.S. Capitol, with all proceeds to benefit the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society, Naval Base Kitsap. An artist reception will be held from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Gallery hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. Admission is free. BPA is located at 200 Madison Ave. North, Bainbridge Island.

Offering Associate,Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees. Contact Columbia College’s local representative at or call (253) 861-6564.

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Volunteer work keeps veteran busy in classroom Baker still remains active after nearly dying in a car accident By CHRIS CHANCELLOR Some long for the simplicity of relaxed summer days. Olalla Elementary School volunteer Art Baker prefers crunching through the brownish autumn leaves en route to the fifthgrade classroom where he works with students to solve fractions. It is among the myriad tasks the 55-year-old Baker performs at the school. “They do me a favor because the doctor told me I had to use my mind as much as I possibly can,” said Baker, who spent 17 years in the Navy and three years in the Army, with duties ranging from quality insurance inspections on trident nuclear submariners to working as an elevator mechanic. On May 21, 2000, Baker’s wife drove their Ford Explorer through a stop sign at the intersection

on Pine and Sidney roads and collided with another vehicle. Baker, who was ejected from the vehicle, was airlifted to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. “I’m kind of like a walking miracle because every part of my brain was damaged,” he said. “At first they thought I was dead and then they thought I was going to be in a convalescence home for the rest of my life.” Baker believes his left arm saved him. The blow to his head was softened when he hit the ground because it landed on the arm, which was shattered. Surgeons were able to save the arm by inserting a metal plate with a dozen screws to stabilize it. “I can tell you when the weather changes,” he said, laughing. Among myriad injuries Baker suffered from the

accident was memory loss. He cannot recall all of the details from his recovery, which lasted several months, but vividly recalls the doctor entering his room every morning seeking his first and last names — among other details. “Finally he walked in the door one time and I said, ‘My name is Art Michael Baker Jr. Why do you ask me these questions all of the time?’” he said. “He said they basically were seeing how my mind was reacting. The doctors have told me they can’t explain why I can do the things I do because every part of my brain was damaged.” In addition to his diminished mental capacity, Baker suffered physical setbacks. He was busy living an active life — Baker said he worked 18-19 hours per day in the military — and maintained a vigorous schedule after leaving active duty. At the time of the accident, Baker was working at Industrial Rubber & Supply in Fife. But he said the accident disrupted his equilibrium. And lacking balance led to a fear of heights, which

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Chris Chancellor/Staff Photo

Art Baker, who served 20 years in the Navy and Army, talks with Olalla Elementary School second-grader Reese Willson. Baker said volunteering helps him “use my mind as much as possible” after suffering a severe head injury from a car accident in 2000. ended his career working on elevators. Enter Olalla Elementary. The Bakers’ son went to the school in sixth grade, but their daughter, Rachael, who now is a sophomore at South Kitsap High School, began attending Olalla in first grade. “I can’t say enough about this school and what my daughter did when she went to this school,” he said.

Baker said an impetus behind his passion for working in school stems from his childhood. He said the education system in New York City was so poor that he often had multiple teachers in a onemonth span. “There were probably like 75 kids in my class and we really didn’t have volunteers,” Baker said. “When I was 12, there were kids that were 18 years old in my

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class. Back then they just failed you, failed you and failed you.” Baker not only wanted a better experience for his children, but others. Another volunteer, Frankie Gower, whose late husband, Dewayne, was South Kitsap School District’s superintendent until his retirement in 1995, said Baker is unique from most because he remained involved with the school after his children left. “He gets here before the teachers do,” Gower said. “You couldn’t find a better volunteer — ever — than Mr. Baker.” Baker, who is legally deaf and can communicate with others because of cochlear implants, maintains that the accident caused him to somewhat slow his lifestyle. First-year Olalla principal Charlotte Flynn never sees Baker resting, though. She said his day begins with the school’s breakfast program and then runs through small-group instruction, listening to children read and working with them on art projects. “The man is full of energy,” Flynn said. “He just goes and goes all day long. Everyone appreciates and loves him.” Baker, whose wife also volunteers within the district and works as a lunchroom server at Olalla and John Sedgwick Junior High, shared similar sentiments about the staff at the school. “The teachers and the staff here are just unbelievable,” she said. “If you need something and ask, they’ll bend over backwards to get you what you need.” Baker estimates that he knows 95 percent of the children at Olalla. Among them is second-grader Reese Willson. “He’s really nice,” she said. “He has done a lot of stuff for our class and school.” After being stationed for five and a half years on the USS Nimitz, Baker said he enjoys the freedom to walk around the school and work on different sets of activities. “Like every other parent, they want their kids to evolve and get the best education they can,” he said. “I really enjoy being around kids. Kids can teach you a lot.”

Local veteran waiting to hear about his claim By Leslie Kelly David Morgan is just a regular kind of guy. He’s a U.S. Army veteran from the 1980s. He left the Army and built a career in the construction trades. He’s got a family, a son who is a senior at North Kitsap High School, and a wife who works two jobs so that the bills get paid when Morgan’s carpentry jobs don’t come in. On his next birthday, he’ll be 50 years old. He lives with constant back pain and he just wants to know what’s wrong with him so he can get treated. “I’m a 50-year-old carpenter who can’t move that fast,” he said. “There’s not a lot of work for me but I take what I can get.” Morgan is one of thousands of veterans who are waiting on the Veterans Administration to review his claim for disability benefits. After being rejected once,

he’s submitting an appeal. His first claim was submitted in July 2012 and it took 14 months for him to get a rejection. “I waited 14 months and all I got was a piece of paper telling me that they didn’t have enough information from the VA examination to make a decision so they were denying my claim until they got more from the VA,” he said. “But when I went to the VA, all they did was take an X-ray. I asked to have an MRI and they said I didn’t need it.” Frustrated with the process, Morgan sought the help of Rep. Derek Kilmer’s office and through vet rep Nicholas Carr in Kilmer’s Tacoma office, he was set up with another doctor’s appointment with a physician that contracts with the VA. Kilmer’s office receives from one to three requests for help with VA matters each week, said Stephen Carter, spokesman for

Kilmer. Responses to Kilmer’s staff from the VA can take from a week to a month, he said. According to statistics from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the backlog of claims is improving. Claims take 125 days to process, and anything that takes longer is classified as backlogged. In 2010, 2011, and 2012, the VA received 1 million claims per year. There are a total of 3.9 million veterans receiving disability benefits at an average cost to the government of $54 billion dollars each year. The VA estimates that the backlog of claims is at 418,500, and that number was tabulated as the federal government shut down in early October. Of those waiting in the backlog, 37 percent are Vietnam veterans, 21 percent are Iraq and Afghanistan era vets, 24 percent are Gulf War vets, 11 percent, like Morgan,

are peacetime vets. Another 7 percent fall into the “other” category. In some cases, appeals can take up to four years. But Morgan can’t wait that long. “I’ve been told that I should get my VA benefits if I can,” he said. “But I’ve also been told maybe this could be an L&I (Labor and Industries) claim. But L&I won’t look at it until I’ve exhausted my chances with the VA.” That’s because he said the back pain stems from bad landings when he was a paratrooper in the Army. He went in at age 18 in September of 1982. Time at bases in Texas, Alabama and Georgia led him to Fort Bragg, N.C., where he was part of the ammo supply unit in charge of a quick reaction force. In all, he made 29 jumps. It was on a jump over the Cicely Drop Zone when a newbie didn’t know the wind currents and blew into him, causing his chute to collapse and he landed hard on a runway. “He turned right into me,” Morgan said. “It was one of those feet, butt and head landings.” Soon after that, Morgan

left the Army with three years of active duty. He admits he had some bad times in the military but left with an honorable discharge. After that, he worked trimming trees, hanging sheet rock and, for a time, was a commercial fisherman in Alaska. He settled back in the Central Kitsap area and began working construction. “I had a hand in building most of the schools on Bainbridge Island,” he said. “And we worked on fire stations. Whenever there was work, I was working.” But because he went from job to job and company to company, he doesn’t have a long history with any one company. He was a union worker for some of that time, but can’t really pin-point an exact injury to file an L&I claim. So, he said, he’s been instructed by the DisabledAmerican Veterans representative to pursue getting his VA disability. “I just want to get it fixed,” he said. “When I went to the doctor the first time, he offered me pain pills and told me to lose weight. “To me, that wasn’t what I needed. I need to know what’s wrong with my back

and how to fix it — ­ or if it can be fixed.” Waiting 14 months to find out nothing doesn’t sit well with him. “It’s like I’m having to beg to get someone to look at me,” he said. “There’s gotta be a better way to treat people. I thought my service to this country was supposed to mean something. I thought there were benefits for my service.” Morgan has an appointment soon with the doctor and with a mental health expert to see if he has some delayed PTSD symptoms from his service. He wonders if he’s being treated differently because he did get into some trouble when he was on active duty. And it’s crossed his mind that he might be at the bottom of the list because he served during peace time. Meanwhile, Morgan waits. “I’m a patient person, but I can only take so much,” he said. If you have had an experience with the VA regarding disabilities that you want to share, email

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Veterans Resources

American Legion Post 245 Service Office Assisting Veterans Open every Thursday 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. 19068 Jensen Way, Suite 3A Downtown Poulsbo 360-779-5456 American Legion Post 245 General Meeting every


third Thursday at 7 p.m. 19068 Jensen Way, Suite 3A Downtown Poulsbo 360-779-5456

Disabled Veterans Outreach Michael Robinson Disables Veterans Outreach 360-337-4727

WorkSource Kitsap County Veterans Representatives 1300 Sylvan Way, Floor 2 Bremerton, 98310

American Legion Post 149 4922 Kitsap Way Bremerton, WA 98312 360-373-8983

VWF Post 239 Bremerton Post 190 Dora Ave Bremerton, WA 98312 360-377-6739 Meetings are 7 p.m. 2nd Tuesday of the month Silverdale American Legion Post 109 10710 Silverdale Way, Silverdale Meets on the third Monday of the month at 7 p.m. at All Star Lanes & Casino Alpost109cmdr@gmail.

com Facebook: American Legion Post 109 Silverdale American Legion Post 172 Bainbridge Island 7880 NE Bucklin Hill Road, Bainbridge Island, WA 98110. 206-842-5000 Disabled American Veterans 2315 Burwell St. Bremerton, Wa. 98312 360-373-2397

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Marine Corps League Olympic Peninsula Detachment 531 2315 Burwell St. Bremerton, WA 98312 360-265-7492 Meets on the first Wednesday of the month at 6 p.m. Mason County VFW Post No. 1694 in Shelton Memorial Hall, Second and Franklin streets Meets second and fourth Thursdays of each month at 7 p.m. Beverages and snacks are served at 6 p.m. by the Ladies Auxiliary. For more information please call 360.426.4546. American Legion Post 200, Belfair PO Box 24, Belfair, Wash. 98528 360-731-4415 Meets first Thursday of the month at 6 p.m. This month: Nov. 7 at El Sombrero, 23969 NE Highway 3, Belfair For more information: email Tom Welch at

To be listed in Veterans Resources, email lkelly@


“There was the ugliness of war and the beauty of a country that was green and was once peaceful,” she said. The cover is a combination of two photos she took, one showing the beauty of Vietnam in a Formosa tree with rolling mountains and soft blue sky. Below the tree lie dead bodies, which she photographed in a village nearby after 500-pound bombs were dropped. The bodies, she said, were left out for days as a warning to others in the village to fear the Viet Cong. “Everyone was confused by the war and the politics of the war,” she said, ref lecting on Vietnam. “For me, it was a time to grow up.” To get a copy of her book, email, or call 360-509-3367. Each copy is $25 and includes mailing charges. Jenny Thomas is the author’s pen name.

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Notice to Contractors Washington State Law (RCW 18.27.100) requires that all advertisements for construction related services include the contractor’s current depar tment of Labor and Industries registration number in the advertisement. Failure to obtain a certificate of registration from L&I or show the registration number in all advertising will result in a fine up to $5000 against the unregistered contractor. For more infor mation, call Labor and Industries Specialty Compliance Services Division at 1-800-647-0982 or check L&Is internet site at

The Bainbridge Island Review newspaper seeking quality motor route carriers. Thursday night delivery. No collections. Must be at least 18 years of age. Reliable people with reliable vehicle please call Brian. 206-842-6613 Business Opportunities

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COLBY UMC BAZAAR! Kitsap’s Destination Bazaar! November 1st and 2nd. Fr iday, 9:30am 4pm; Saturday, 9:30am 2pm. Colby United Methodist Church, corner of Southworth Drive and Har vey Street. A Ver itable Boutique of Handmade Items by Our Womens Group. No Vendors. Kitchen Items, Baskets, Bake Sale, N e e d l e w o r k , D e c o r, Cards, Gifts. Hot Lunch Served Both Days from 11:30am to 1:30pm. Proceeds Benefit Missions. 360-871-3365. THE HANSVILLE Art & Craft Guild Presents: Holiday Fair 2013. Bring your Family & Friends to the Greater Hansville Community Center at Buck Lake County Park Friday & Saturday, November 8th & 9th, 10am to 4pm. Free Parking & Admission. Handcrafted Arts, Crafts & Gifts by Local Artists. Dollar Raffle Tickets. Choose from G i f t B a s k e t s b y Fa i r Vendors or a Beautiful Quilt. Finish your Holid ay S h o p p i n g B e fo r e Thanksgiving!

ABRAHAM’S HOUSE Fundraiser! Friday only, October 25 th from 9 am to 6 pm. Furniture, coletibles, house wares, holiday decor, baseball cards and toys. Something for the whole fami- Find your perfect pet ly! At Christian Life Cen- in the Classifieds. t e r, 1 7 8 0 S E L i n c o l n Ave. Cash only.

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The Bond/ Last look

Don’t thank them, think of them

By Luciano Marano “Thanks for your service.” That’s a phrase that gets used a lot, especially around Veterans Day. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad for it. I’m glad that people are recognizing the contributions and sacrifices of our military members and thanking them. It’s just that I know that I personally never wanted to be thanked. I feel as if, unless you were actually drafted, nobody joined the military by accident. I never met one person in my five years who got on the wrong bus at the airport and just decided to follow the crowd. We all knew what we were doing, and it’s not like we didn’t get anything out of the deal. So let’s get away from the idea of ‘thanks’ for just a minute. Let’s try something else. It’s just one man’s opinion. When I was stationed

onboard the USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) and acting as the Distinguished Visitor Program coordinator, we hosted guests while out to sea from all kinds of professions. These are people who were invited and paid to be flown out to the carrier and spend two or three days touring the ship and seeing actual deployment operations. The guests were important people in fields of business, technology, politics, education and law enforcement. They were there to get educated about what the Navy actually did. It’s a great program and I got to meet some very interesting and influential people. That being said, there were very few people who ever left the ship unimpressed. Almost all of the guests I helped host made comments about how much safer and how proud they felt knowing that there were ships like the Lincoln out there doing what

they do every day. They always thanked us. I thanked them for coming and got ready to receive a new group. But that’s not what I wanted to say. I wanted to tell them that they were right to feel proud and safe, that we do have this situation in hand, and that they need to remember that when they get back to their own jobs. I didn’t want them to thank me. I wanted them to remember me. I wanted them to take that feeling of responsibility and duty they saw in

the young sailors that they were so impressed with and bring it to their own offices. They knew, then, that they didn’t need to worry about the nation’s defense. I wanted to know that I didn’t need to worry about the nation’s education system, or whatever that person was responsible for. If the country were one small town, this would be easier to explain. The firefighter doesn’t need to worry about installing new brakes in his car because the mechanic is there to take care of that.

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Likewise the mechanic is not concerned that there would be nobody to save his garage should a fire occur. Everybody has their own part and the deployed service members are counting on coming home to a country where they don’t have to worry about the availability of food or airline safety (or the government shutting down) or whatever. They’re counting on everyone to do their own part. That’s how you thank a veteran. Do whatever you do, and do it the best that



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you can. We owe that much to each other. We should all keep in mind that sense of duty, and not just on November 11. Like I said, it’s just one man’s opinion. I personally dedicate this Veterans Day Bond column to all the sailors of the USS Abraham Media Department, past and present.

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N OV E M B E R 2 013

Kitsap Veterans Life, October 25, 2013  

October 25, 2013 edition of the Kitsap Veterans Life

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