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March 26, 2015 at 6:38am

5 Things To Do Today: Bluegrass, Pierce County READS film, "Battlefields to Farmlands," mini and the Bear ...

The Barleywine revue performs at The Swiss tonight. Photo credit: Pappi Swarner

THURSDAY, MARCH 26 2015 >>>

1. Tacoma bluegrass band The Barleywine Revue and Tacoma old timey meets folk-punk band The Cottonwood Cutups will pitch a tent inside The Swiss Restaurant and Pub from 7-10 p.m. It will be a cacophony of spirited group singing and hoops and hollers.

2. The South Sound is a lit-lovin' book-readin' type of region. We welcome authors, and we support them. We read their books and we go to events where they read their books to us. And a bunch of these authors even live here, which means we probably sit next to them on the bus, or in a restaurant, or edge past them a little too closely when we're driving and they're rushing through the crosswalk just after the light changes. Many cities in the region host citywide reading events. So do the counties. Daniel James Brown's The Boys in the Boat is the 2015 selection for Pierce County Library System's 8th annual Pierce County READS. The No. 1 New York Times best-seller chronicles the 1936 University of Washington crew team and their epic quest for gold at the Berlin Olympics. Against the grim backdrop of the Great Depression, this nine-man crew of working class origins stormed the rowing world, transformed the sport and galvanized the attention of millions of Americans. The library has put together 63 free events that cover various themes from The Boys in the Boat including a free screening of the controversial German propaganda film Triumph of the Will, at 6 p.m. in The Grand Cinema, followed by expert commentary with UW Tacoma's Claudia Gorbman, Ph.D.

3. In the Joint Base Lewis-McChord area alone, more than 11,000 servicemembers will leave active duty in the next two years. Thurston, Pierce and Mason counties are projected to have the highest Post 9/11 veteran population in the state. Organizations like GRuB (Garden Raised Bounty) in Olympia hope to help those veterans transition by affording them opportunities in the field of sustainable agriculture. Join GRuB, Enterprise for Equity, Oly Float, Rainier Therapeutic riding, the Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs and the Veterans Conservation Corps at 6:30 p.m. at the Capitol Theater for a screening of the film Ground Operations: Battlefields to Farmfields, a documentary that examines the plight of farmers and demonstrates how veterans can translate military skills to the world of agriculture. Following the movie screening, County Commissioner Bud Blake will moderate a discussion about the relationship between food security and veteran transition.

4. The Olympia People's Mic invites vocalists, writers and poets to speak their pieces for an hour or two at 7 p.m. in Café Love. Tonight, the featured poet is eastern Washington transplant, currently-residing-in-Seattle-poet Tim Johnson. 

5. San Francisco power volume duo mini and the Bear joins Big Idiot for heavy jams at 10 p.m. in Le Voyeur.

February 9, 2015 at 7:29am

5 Things To Do Today: Warriors in Film, "Postmodern Muslim Feminism," 10 String Symphony, Brian Lee Trio ...

The 2014 Sierra Club Military Outdoors Adventure Film School helped veterans to tell their stories. Photo courtesy of Sierra Club

MONDAY, FEB. 9 2015 >>>

1. The Tacoma Mountaineers, the Sierra Club, University of Puget Sound and Tahoma Audubon present a night of film, reflection and a celebration of veterans who have bravely shared their stories, and documented the struggles of returning home and demonstrated the role wild places have in helping our troops heal from the profound trauma of war. Warriors in Film in the North Cascades and Beyond will feature speakers involved in the Sierra Club's Military Outdoors program who will present the spectacular footage and touching stories of veterans who adventure into the outdoors to heal, experience camaraderie, and to muster the strength to continue their fight to make America a better place. The free event will take place at 7 p.m. in the Tacoma Mountaineers.

2. Walk through the basics of sauerkraut fermentation with Lisa Oldoski at 6:30 p.m. in the Gig Harbor Pierce County Library. You will be inspired to make your own delicious, healthy probiotic sauerkraut at home.

3. Nashville's 10 String Symphony blends aggressive, almost discordant, Celtic and punky string-chording experimentations. Vocally, Rachel Baiman and Christian Sedelmyer lock in seamlessly, and their vocal duets often take center stage despite the fact that they are self-described fiddle players. Check the duo out with Forest Beutel at 7 p.m. in Tacoma's Immanuel Presbyterian Church.

4. As a scarf-wearing Muslim teenager in Chicago, Tahera Ahmad played a mean game of basketball. As a young woman, she wrestled with interpretations of her own faith and went on to study Islamic law at the prestigious Al-Azhar University in Cairo. Today, as a respected scholar, speaker, and youth leader, Ahmad has drawn national attention for social justice views that combine her devout Islamic faith with a feminist worldview. Sister Tahera Ahmad, associate university chaplain and faculty fellow at Northwestern University in Illinois, will share some of those viewpoints in a University of Puget Sound lecture that addresses questions that Muslims and non-Muslims alike may ask as they encounter conflicting pictures of the Islamic religion and culture at 7:30 p.m. in Schneebeck Concert Hall.

5. Guitarist, harpist and singer Brian Lee has led popular Northwest bands Brian Lee Trio, Streamliner, and Brian Lee & the Orbiters for many years. These musician's musicians have mantle full of awards, playing originals and cover. The Brian Lee Trio pops in at 8 p.m. for Blues Night at The Swiss Restaurant and Pub.

December 22, 2014 at 2:16pm

"Holiday Magic" at Tacoma VFW Post #91

"Holiday Magic" at Tacoma VFW Post #91 / photo credit: Gary Lott

"Christmas this year has been hard on us, especially Thanksgiving," a young Washington National Guard specialist stated while gripping a holiday meal in the main room of the Tacoma VFW Post #91. "We haven't had enough funds to buy our 2-month-old son any gifts."

The holidays cause financial stress: shocking holiday credit card statements, elaborate holiday meals, late-night runs to grab last minute tape or name cards for or a slew of other stressful reasons.

The stress can be harder for that young servicemember who has returned from deployment with a growing young family.

That soldier is on the minds of the dozens who run this year's Washington National Guard's Family Programs' "Holiday Magic" service. Family Programs spends hundreds of hours distributing donated holiday meals, hams and, of course, toys at the Tacoma VFW Post #91 at 2000 South Union Ave. in central Tacoma. Post #91 members donate their post location and hours of volunteer time - often spent cleaning and sorting toys - to the Joint Services Support Family Programs, which primarily assists the servicemembers of the Washington National Guard and Reserves, as well as servicemembers from other branches. This year's "Holiday Magic" program sets aside a day to serve active-duty servicemembers, veterans and wounded veterans.

"The 'Holiday Magic' program has been an amazing gift," said the spouse of a deployed servicemember. "It has given me the joy and stress relief of knowing that I can give to my kids with a happy and relieving heart."

Although Pierce County residents make up the majority of the program's users, "Holiday Magic" volunteers have received requests from outside the county - and meals and toys were bagged, sorted and delivered by Family Assistance Specialists (FAS) who are stationed throughout the state near Washington National Guard unit locations such as Spokane, Vancouver, Everett, Port Orchard and Marysville. These FAS are also available to provide assistance throughout the year in forms of emergency grants, education assistance, employment assistance, resiliency matters and more.

"The program that is being ran by you is amazing," a private first class stationed on Joint Base Lewis-McChord stated to the volunteers at Tacoma VFW Post #91. "It has been a real tough year on me and I have been really stressed the last couple of months on what I was going to do for Christmas. The fact that this is available has been a huge relief and has helped very much. Thank you and everyone involved with this program very much. Merry Christmas!"

November 11, 2014 at 2:27pm

Tacoma honors veterans at War Memorial Park

Members of the Washington Army National Guard’s Honor Guard prepare for the Day of Remembrance Service held at the War Memorial Park in Tacoma. Photo credit: J.M. Simpson

Remembrance is a simple experience.

At exactly 11 a.m. at the War Memorial Park in Tacoma, several hundred veterans, family members, friends and a handful of elected officials met on a cold and windy morning overlooking the Narrows Bridges to remember all veterans.

"We are here to pay honor to those who have served," said Bill Baarsma, a former mayor of Tacoma.

The Tacoma Historical Society and the Edward B. Rhodes/Parkland, Post 2 American Legion presented the eighth annual Day of Remembrance Service.

>>> Cadet Senior Chief Petty Officer Chris Godfrey stood at attention during the service. Photo credit: J.M. Simpson

"This is becoming a wonderful tradition," comment Col. Andy Leneweaver, USA (Ret). "It's also interesting to note that this ceremony is the only one being done within Tacoma."

Washington Army National Guard soldiers and Stadium High School Navy Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps carried the colors.

>>> Approximately 250 veterans, family members, friends and elected officials attended the eighth Day of Remembrance Ceremony. Photo credit: J.M. Simpson

The Brass Unlimited played one patriotic song after another, the notes sometimes becoming lost in the high winds.

Speakers were short and to the point as they thanked veterans for their service.

For one veteran, the ceremony by the Narrows brought a wistful smile.

"It is good to be remembered," said Charles Johnson, a 94-year old World War II veteran of Omaha Beach.

>>> Charles Johnson, a 94-year old Army veteran of World War II and Omaha Beach, smiled broadly during the ceremony. Photo credit: J.M. Simpson

November 10, 2014 at 5:14pm

I Corps Commander Lt. Gen. Stephen Lanza discusses Veterans Day with Lakewood students

Lt. Gen. Stephen Lanza, commander, I Corps, talks about the meaning of Veterans Day with students at St. Francis Cabrini School. Photo credit: J.M. Simpson

Veterans Day can be described simply as the day set aside to honor our country's veterans.

"This is about service, about the sacrifices that give us our rights, liberty and environment," explained Lt. Gen. Stephen Lanza this afternoon to the student body of St. Francis Cabrini School.

Invited by the school to speak, the commander of I Corps at Joint Base Lewis-McChord arrived with his wife, Madeline, and without an entourage.

The first person he shook hands with was a veteran of World War II, Korea and Vietnam.

"Thank you for your service," Lanza said.

Soon surrounded by students wearing red, white and blue and waving flags, Lanza spoke about the need to remember the service and sacrifices of our nation's veterans. 

"This day of honor began on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918," he began.

During his remarks, a couple of first- and second-graders asked questions.

Without breaking stride and wearing a big smile, Lanza took the time to answer their questions - but with an enduring message to his young audience.

In talking about those who have sworn an oath to uphold and protect the Constitution, Lanza closed by quoting President John Kennedy.

"A nation reveals itself not only by the men it produces but also by the men it honors, the men it remembers."

November 10, 2014 at 2:52pm

Words & Photos: Auburn Veterans Day Parade 2014

JBLM Explosive Ordnance Disposal Battalion blew people's minds at the 49th Annual Auburn veterans Day Parade. Photo credit: Gary Lott

Veterans Day is always officially observed on Nov. 11, the anniversary of the signing of the treaty that ended World War I in 1918. Originally called Armistice Day, it was renamed Veterans Day in 1954 to honor all American military veterans and their service.

On Saturday, the city of Auburn held its annual Veterans Day Parade. This year, the observance paid special tribute to the Military Order of the Purple Heart while also recognizing the 49 years that Auburn has honored veterans with its celebration and parade.

"It's very important for us to be here and show the community that we are both soldiers and citizens," said Sgt. 1st Class Duane Cruz, marketing manager for the Washington National Guard's Recruiting and Retention Battalion. "All of these guys who come out and dedicate their time are volunteers and eagerly do these events to show their own support, inform the public of what they do, and thank the community for all of their continued support."

Auburn has been designated by the Veterans Day National Committee and the U.S.  Department of Veterans Affairs as a regional site for celebrating Veterans Day. The parade has been hosted in Auburn since 1965 and is now one of the largest Veterans Day parades in the United States.

It focuses on honoring the country's veterans and active-duty military personnel, as well as honoring their military missions defending freedom around the world, such as World War I.

The 2014 Auburn Veterans Day Parade wasn't just about military vehicles traveling down a mile strip, however. The celebration was a daylong event and included an American Legion breakfast, static displays and seven exhibit showcases, a Remembrance Ceremony and the traditional Lighting of the Flame, the parade, a marching band competition, a veteran's luncheon and the Auburn VFW Post #1741 Open House. The day's celebrations concluded with Sweet Swing! A Tribute to Veterans, a one-of-a-kind show held in the Auburn Avenue Theater.

Before the actual parade started, a pancake breakfast was provided by American Legion Post #78, and a Remembrance Ceremony and Lighting of the Flame event took place at Veterans Memorial Park. 

Jim Sims of the Military Order of the Purple Heart (MOPH) was the parade's grand marshal. This year's parade theme was the Military Order of the Purple Heart.

With more than 200 individual military units participating and more than 20,000 spectators, it is apparent that the event continues to grow in the Pacific Northwest. The general public even had an opportunity to walk down a street loaded with military vehicles and equipment and could even climb a rock wall courtesy of the Washington National Guard.

Later in the day, during the Auburn Noon Lions Club Luncheon, the Joint Services Support Directorate of the Washington National Guard received the 2014 Service Team Award from the Washington Department of Veterans Affairs for, "Outstanding Service to Veterans and their Families."

Along with the team award, four Distinguished Service Awards were given to individuals who excelled in supporting veterans, one of whom was Robin Baker, manager of the Joint Base Lewis-McChord's Army Career and Alumni Program.

"A lot of people don't really know what we do, so it's nice to share some information about what we do and the equipment we use," said Spec. Justin Near from the 110th Chemical Battalion at JBLM. The unit conducts site exploitation, which is when service members use detector equipment to determine what exactly is on any particular site.

"We have detector information here used to detect radiation and chemical warfare agents. That way we can keep ourselves and our sites safe," Near said. "I think it gives the public a sense of security to see us out here, and we're honored to assist."

LINK: More photos from the 49th Annual Auburn Veterans Day Parade

November 4, 2014 at 12:29pm

Lakewood City Council states Veterans Day Proclamation, honors military residents

Lakewood high school ROTC students added fanfare to the city of Lakewood's annual Veterans Day Proclamation. Photo credit: Kevin Knodell

Monday, Nov. 3, the Lakewood City Council celebrated Veterans Day early with its annual Veterans Day Proclamation.

The council honored Lt. Gen. William Harrison (Ret.) - Lakewood's mayor emeritus, President of the AUSA's Captain Meriwether Lewis chapter and of the Pierce Military and Business Alliance Carlene Joseph and Rally Point/6 founder and CEO Anne Sprute. They also proclaimed November to be Veterans Appreciation Month.

The ceremony featured members of Clover Park High School and Lakes High School ROTC programs as color guards, and a video presentation honoring veterans. Each service was recognized as veterans were asked to stand as their service anthems were played.

Lakewood Deputy Mayor Jason Whalen spoke about the contributions the honorees have made to the community, and congratulated them for their accomplishments over the course of the year. The council thanked Harrison for his service to the city and congratulated him on the recent dedication of Harrison Hall, the new 7th Infantry Division headquarters at Joint Base Lewis-McChord named in his honor.

Joseph received the AUSA's 2014 Maj. Gen. Anthony J. Drexel Biddle Medal, an award for members who've significantly contributed to advancing the interests of the AUSA. The council thanked Sprute for her tireless efforts in support of veterans through Rally Point/6, one of the most ambitious veteran support organizations in the state.

>>> Lakewood Deputy Mayor Jason Whalen honors Rally Point/6 CEO Anne Sprute at the Lakewood City Council meeting Monday, Nov. 3. Photo by Kevin Knodell

All the honorees received a city of Lakewood challenge coin. The coin, a military tradition, is meant to symbolize the community's military roots. The young city of Lakewood has deep military roots indeed.

>>> Lt. Gen. William Harrison (Ret.) / photo credit: Kevin Knodell

After leaving the Army, Harrison was one of the leading members of the campaign to incorporate the city in 1996, and was elected Lakewood's first mayor shortly after. Owing to its proximity to JBLM and Camp Murray, Lakewood has a large population of both active-duty military members and their families. Many decide to reside there permanently after leaving the service, with a large veteran population as well.

October 26, 2014 at 12:06pm

Tacoma Screw honors veterans with a giant flag

Members of the Pacific Lutheran University ROTC Color Guard raise the flag at Tacoma Screw. Erected to mark the company’s 70th anniversary, the 180-foot flagpole is the largest in the Pacific Northwest. Photo credit: Kevin Knodell

"That is one big flag" said a Pacific Lutheran University ROTC cadet as she looked up at Tacoma Screw's new flagpole. Towering at 180 feet tall, the pole supports a flag measuring 40 feet by 80 feet. It's the tallest flagpole in the Pacific Northwest.

Built to commemorate Tacoma Screw's 70th anniversary, the company's credit services and marketing manager Michael Howard said that it was also built to honor veterans. A flag-raising ceremony was held at the company's Tacoma headquarters Oct. 25.

Howard told the crowd gathered to see the dedication that as the company came up on its anniversary, they tried to figure out the best way to celebrate it. He said they decided the best way to celebrate their success was to give back to their community and those who protect it. "We remain proud of our Tacoma roots and our Tacoma legacy" he told the audience.

One of the speakers was Don Dossa. His father and two brothers all served in the military. "You maybe thank a checker at the store or a friend every day, but veterans don't hear thank you enough," Dossa told the crowd.

>>> PLU ROTC military science instructor Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Hughes hooks up the flag at the dedication ceremony for Tacoma Screw's new flagpole. Photo credit: Kevin Knodell

American Veterans Department of Washington Commander Charles Wharton commended Tacoma Screw for showing its support for veterans. He gave the crowd a lesson on the history of the American flag and its significance.

Members of the PLU ROTC Color Guard raised the flag. The program's professor of military science, Lt. Col. Kevin Keller, said organizers asked a few weeks ago if his cadets were available after the previous flag raisers dropped out.

>>> Pacific Lutheran University Professor of Military Science Lt. Col. Kevin Keller listened to speakers at the dedication ceremony for Tacoma Screw's new flagpole Oct. 25. Photo by Kevin Knodell

>>> American Veterans Dept. of Wash. Commander Charles Wharton addresses the crowd at the dedication ceremony for Tacoma Screw's new flagpole.Photo credit: Kevin Knodell

This fell outside of the color guard's typical event types, they usually present (much smaller) flags for ceremonies and sporting events. It took everyone on their color guard roster - and then some. "This is more than just the color guard out here," Keller said.

It is indeed, one big flag.

Howard said that this moment was two years in the making. The flag was so tall, they needed approval from the Federal Aviation Administration and Joint Base Lewis McChord. It required wading through a lot of regulations, paperwork and signatures.

It also required cash.

Howard wouldn't say how much specifically it cost, only saying it cost "a serious chunk of money."

>>> Photo credit: Kevin Knodell

Filed under: Ceremony, Community, Tacoma, Veterans,

September 23, 2014 at 9:43am

Never Forget: Vietnam and POW/MIA Recognition Day event in Olympia

Dan Swisher, a Vietnam War veteran, is recognized for service during the POW and MIA Recognition Event Sept. 19, 2014 at the Capitol Plaza in Olympia.

Realizing the impact of Prisoner of War and Missing in Action soldiers may be a little difficult for those not directly affected. That is, until watching a family member fight back tears during a Vietnam and POW/MIA Recognition Day event held Friday in front of the Capitol building in Olympia.

"It's an honor. It was a hard time and difficult time for the nation, as well as those of us that were serving," said Vietnam veteran and Washington Military Department Chief State Finance officer Daniel Swisher. "It's a lot of pride of nation for us. These people have given so much of their own lives to make this country what it is, and to forget that or not to honor that is just a tragedy."

Swisher was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1969, and during Friday's ceremony he shared the impact of returning from Vietnam without a close friend with whom he had deployed as well as the sacrifices and risks of every deployed service member.

"It's important that we pass these stories on to our children, and they pass them on to their children, so we don't forget," Swisher said.

National POW/MIA Recognition Day was established in 1986, and more than 80,000 service members from the U.S. are still considered to be "missing in action."

>>> Minute Man Riders conducted a joint motorcycle ride as part of the POW and MIA Recognition Event at the Capitol Plaza in Olympia.  The ride started outside of Camp Murray and ended at the Capitol in Olympia. Photo credit: Gary Lott

That's more than 80,000 family members and friends who were never able to thank their service members for their combat service or feel that euphoria of embrace when welcoming them back home into their arms.

"The 50th Vietnam Commemoration is to thank and honor veterans of the Vietnam War, including personnel who were held as prisoners of war (POW), or listed as missing in action (MIA), for their service and sacrifice on behalf of the United States and to thank and honor the families of these veterans," said Brig. Gen. John Tuohy of the Washington National Guard during the ceremony.

>>> Col. Gregory Allen, the event's master of ceremonies, expresses his gratitude to the family members of POW and MIA servicemembers during a POW/MIA Recognition Event. Photo credit: Gary Lott

Events such as this highlight the special partnership between the Washington National Guard, the Washington Department of Veterans' Affairs and National Guard Association of Washington that take place throughout the year.

Brig. Gen. Wallace Turner, commander of the Washington National Guard and the 6,200 citizen-soldiers that serve the United States of America and the state of Washington, was also on hand to read the Commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War.

"In recognition of a chapter in our nation's history that must never be forgotten, let us renew our sacred commitment to those who answered our country's call in Vietnam and those who awaited their safe return," said Turner, reading from President Obama's Vietnam Commemoration. "While no words will ever be fully worthy of their service, nor any honor truly befitting their sacrifice, let us remember that it is never too late to pay tribute to the men and women who answered the call of duty with courage and valor."

Since Memorial Day 2012, the Federal Government has partnered with local governments, private organizations and communities across America to honor and show thanks to the generation of service members who embarked upon one of the most challenging missions in U.S. history.

Along with the Washington Military Department and National Guard, which conducted the Sept. 19 ceremony at the Winged Victory Memorial at the Capitol, the Washington National Guard Military Funeral Honors performed the Honor Guard ceremony; the National Guard Association of Washington (NGAW) provided the traditional wreath; and the 133rd Army National Guard Band performed the event's music.

"The Washington Military Department, Washington Department of Veterans Affairs and Washington National Guard do a great job of honoring all these vets," said Swisher. "No one's forgetting, and that's truly special in itself."

Filed under: Veterans, Ceremony, Olympia, Memorial,

September 19, 2014 at 9:18am

Senate extends VA Child Care Pilot Program, heads to President Obama

Yesterday, the Senate passed the Department of Veterans Affairs Expiring Authorities Act of 2014 (H.R. 5404), which included a provision to extend the VA Child Care Pilot Program - including the facility at the American Lake Veterans Hospital campus that has become an integral resource for local veterans who need to attend appointments without their children.

H.R. 5404 will now head to the president and await his signature. Approval of the provision will extend the program through Dec. 31, 2015.

Read Melissa Renahan's report on the VA Child Care Pilot Program American Lake Veterans Hospital here.

Filed under: Legislature, Military, Veterans, Health,

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