Category Archives: The Military

Speaking of Young Men and Cars

I call them “the vultures,” my son and his friends. They descend on our kitchen, inhaling anything edible, speaking in a cacophony of adolescent male egos, leaving scraps and bones scattered about before flocking to the next house to see what’s in the ‘fridge.

They have a great appetite for life, these boys-on-their-way-to-becoming-men. They talk about soccer and girls and haircuts and shoes … OMG, they are obsessed with shoes.

Last Wednesday, they swooped in after I had spent more than two hours preparing a dinner of pork adobo and lumpia— a far cry from my son’s friend’s Filipino grandma’s cooking, but I do what I can to lure them briefly. In the five minutes it took for them to consume the meal, they chatted about girls and soccer and shoes … and the crash. Just down the road, there’s a gash in a tree, the site of an accident that took the life of the 18-year-old driver, Michael James Adams, not far from his family’s home.

My son yearns for his learner’s permit. He looks at cars as we pass by and says, “I could drive that.” Anything but a truck, like his dad’s, or a van, like mine, preferably something low and sleek, red or black.

“What’s the hurry?” I say. “You have a perfectly decent bike and two personal chauffeurs.”

I’d rather he stick with shoes.

When his older brother, now 25, was about to be born, my husband anxiously asked the doctor, “What’s the most dangerous time?” The doctor replied, “When he gets his license.”

We used to laugh about that. That doctor, what a card.

On Saturday, I reported on the death of another 18-year-old. Mark S. Schroeder Jr. of Fontana, Calif., a sailor at Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor, was driving southbound in his black 2008 Hyundai Tiburon when he hit the highway’s jersey barrier near the turnoff to Belfair, lost control of the car and struck a power pole. He was pronounced dead at the scene. Passengers in the car, who escaped with non-life-threatening injuries, told Washington State Patrol troopers Schroeder had recently acquired the car.

I shared the story with my son, selfishly using the tragedy as a cautionary tale. The cause of the crash is unclear. Drugs and alcohol were ruled out as factors. Excessive speed was not mentioned in the WSP report. It would be easy to speculate, but also fruitless.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for U.S. teens, accounting for more than one in three deaths in this age group.

* In 2008, nine teens ages 16 to 19 died every day on U.S. roadways from motor vehicle injuries.

* Per mile driven, teen drivers ages 16 to 19 are four times more likely than older drivers to crash.

* In 2008,  about 3,500 teens in the United States ages 15 to 19 were killed, and more than 350,000 were treated in emergency departments for injuries suffered in motor-vehicle crashes.

Our condolences to the families of the young men who died.

Chris Henry, Kitsap Sun reporter

Friday Afternoon Club: Cedar Cove to Pirate’s Den, Will the Real Port Orchard Please Stand Up?

Port Orchard, which recently portrayed the fictional town of Cedar Cove, will undergo another transformation Saturday and Sunday, with its Murder Mystery Weekend.
Landlubbers and pirates alike will follow clues throughout the weekend to discover who killed Capt. Zeke Black.
The B.O.O.M. (Brotherhood of Oceanic Mercenaries) Pirates will invade the waterfront area in Port Orchard Chamber of Commerce’s fourth annual event, filling the air with sea shanties, cannon fire and the sounds of other buccaneering business.
Here’s a look at last year’s event:

Besides the questioning of suspects and hunting for clues, highlights include a “Landlubber Dinghy Derby Race,” pirate ball, Fight-A-Pirate swordplay, costume contests and Pirate Ball.
Information: (360) 876-3505,
10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday: Obtain clue packets (fees listed on chamber Web site).
10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday: Marketfaire, Fight-a-Pirate Lessons, children’s activities.
11 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Saturday: B.O.O.M. Pirates Cannon Show.
12:30 p.m. Saturday: Landlubber Dinghy Derby Race
1 p.m. Saturday: Adult costume contest.
1:30 p.m. Saturday: B.O.O.M. Pirates Stunt Show.
2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday: “Goonies” at Historic Orchard Theatre, 822 Bay St.; (360) 895-0564
4 p.m. Saturday: “The Coroner’s Report”
6 p.m. Saturday: Pirate’s Ball, Moondogs, Too, 714 Bay St.; (360) 895-2300.
9 to 11 a.m. Sunday: VFW pancake breakfast, waterfront gazebo.
11 a.m. and 4 p.m. Sunday: B.O.O.M. Pirates Cannon Show
Noon to 4 p.m. Sunday: Obtain clue packets.
Noon Sunday: Pirates Stunt Show.
12:30 p.m.: Kids and pets costume contest.
4 p.m. Sunday: The mystery is solved.

Starbucks Coffee for the Troops

A Monday morning, an e-mail about donations of coffee for troops serving overseas, a simple feel-good story, right?

Yeah right. Feel-good, yes. Simple, no such luck.

Shortly, we’ll have a story on the Web site about Bernice Maxfield, a Belfair resident who has collected donations of Starbuck’s coffee to send to military troops serving overseas. Maxfield’s son, Army Sgt. Daryl Johnson, is serving his second tour in Iraq.

I called the manager of the Belfair Starbucks, who is Maxfield’s contact for the donations. She referred me to the Starbucks public relations office. No surprise there. But a representative of the corporation said she could give “no additional details about the program.” End of statement.

A link on the Starbucks Web site called “rumor response” hints at a possible reason for the coyness.

Apparently Starbucks is still doing damage control on a rumor from 2004 that the socially conscious coffee giant does not support U.S. military troops. In the link, USMC Sgt. Howard C. Wright, retracts an e-mail statement he made to that effect.

An accompanying corporate statement lists examples of troop support, including a relationship with the American Red Cross in which Starbucks has donated more than 100,000 pounds of coffee for military personnel in Afghanistan, Iraq and Kuwait. The statement also mentions policies related to pay, health care and job security for partners (employees) who are serving in the military.

Starbucks, whose corporate policies on social justice and the environment could reasonably be described as left-leaning, appears to be dealing with the same conundrum facing individual Americans who want to express support of the troops without overtly endorsing the war.

A link from CNN’s Web site shows the following poll results on American attitudes toward the Iraq War:

In a Newsweek poll that asked, “All in all, considering the costs to the United States versus the benefits to the United States, do you think the war with Iraq was worth fighting, or not?” 63 percent of those who responded said it wasn’t worth the costs.

Fifty-four percent of those who responded to a Pew Research Center poll said they thought the U.S. made the wrong decision in using military force against Iraq.

Fifty-eight percent of people in a CBS News New York Times Poll said in hindsight, they believed the U.S. should not have taken military action in Iraq.”

Maxfield said the current climate of anti-war sentiment makes it hard on military personnel. Her son got leave to return home in December for the birth of his daughter and was surprised to receive a hero’s welcome on a connecting flight in Dallas. Passengers on the flight gave him and his fellow soldiers a rousing round of applause. Johnson said it was the first time he’s received such treatment and it moved him deeply, his mother said. Johnson and his comrades in Iraq also were heartened by messages of encouragement and thanks donors wrote on the bags of coffee they received.

“I just think it’s neat in a time where’s there’s a lot of negativity about the war that people are still supporting our guys over there,” Maxfield said. “I don’t think there’s enough being said.”

Maxfield said she would welcome inquiries from military families, organizations or individuals willing to help distribute the bags of whole bean coffee. The cost for shipping is $10.95 for an eight-pound box plus a grinder. Maxfield has approached Walmart about donating grinders.
Contact Maxfield at (360) 340-4779 or at Security Financial Services, 1341 Bay St., Port Orchard.

Protests Planned at Soldier’s Funeral Friday

Military reporter Ed Friedrich wrote today about a small Kansas congregation known for its anti-gay message who plan to demonstrate during a memorial service Friday for a Bremerton soldier killed in Afghanistan.

Ed writes: That comes following passage of a state law in January, which requires protestors to remain 500 feet or more from funeral processions, the grave site and the funeral home or building where a funeral service is taking place. The law was passed in response to protests at soldiers’ funerals.

The article goes on:

There will be sufficient deputies on hand to enforce the law, Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Scott Wilson said.

“We will have adequate law enforcement to ensure the peace, as distasteful as this group may be, and to make sure the family has a right to conduct a memorial service in dignity and privacy,” he said.

The funeral is for Sgt. 1st Class Johnny C. Walls, a 1985 Bremerton High graduate who died Nov. 2 of wounds suffered when insurgents attacked his unit with small-arms fire. His mother, stepfather, sister and a pair of grandparents live in Port Orchard. The funeral is at 2 p.m. Friday at Christian Life Center, 1780 SE Lincoln Ave.

Members of the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka have gained notoriety by demonstrating at military funerals across the country, claiming God is killing troops in Iraq and Afghanistan to punish the United States for tolerating homosexuality.

Church officials contacted the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office to tell it that five to 10 members would be picketing at the busy intersection of Bethel Road and Lund Avenue, Wilson said. The group also lists the demonstration on its Web site.

A counter demonstration is also planned.

Beneath Healing Wings

Jewell James, master carver of the Lummi Nation, near Bellingham, said the process of carving has been “healing” for him. James, who began studying under master carvers in 1992, has lost two of his children and a brother. Today, a totem pole he created to honor veterans was unveiled at the Washington State Veteran’s Home at Retsil. But is it really that simple? Can one look at a piece of art and feel the burden of wounds and worries decades old lifted away?
According to Richard Shreder, who took over as superintendent of the Veterans Home this week, James’ “Healing Pole” has already had a profound influence on residents.
“As soon as it went up, residents were walking up to it, touching it, asking questions about it,” Shreder said. “It was powerful.”
Here’s the story.

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SK Grad Flying High

Chris Austin, SKHS Class of 1990, joins the elite Thunderbirds flight squadron.

On the Web: Visit the USAF Thunderbirds Web site

Classmates of Chris Austin, a 1990 graduate of South Kitsap High School, may remember a skinny blond kid with thick black eyebrows and a winning smile. At Burley-Glenwood and Manchester Elementary schools, he was the kid always drawing planes that streaked across the sky of his childhood imagination.
Like many youngsters, Austin dreamed of becoming a pilot. Today, Maj. Chris Austin is a member of the fabled Thunderbirds precision Air Force flying squadron, currently embarked on a worldwide tour.
As the Thunderbirds’ left wing pilot, Austin flies at 600 miles per hour, his jet a mere three feet from others in the squadron. For Austin, 35, it’s the thrill of a lifetime, but ask him what excites him the most about his new assignment, and he’ll talk about the people on the ground.

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