Northwest Military Blogs: Army West Blog

September 26, 2017 at 5:55am

What Do New Homes Include?

Buying a new home is an exciting purchase! But do you know what’s included? It’s common for buyers to confuse a to-be-built “new construction home” with a “custom home.” However, there are distinct differences between the two that every informed buyer should know.

What’s included with a new construction home:

  1. When you buy a new construction home, you will likely be presented with several floor plan options. The plans aren’t created according to your exact specifications, so you won’t be shopping around for an architect. The floor plans are usually tried and true, meaning they have been built before and homeowners can attest to their quality and functionality. Your floor plan is included!

    Insider tip: Richmond American doesn’t believe in cookie-cutter homes. We offer a variety of popular structural options to accommodate a wide range of lifestyles. For example, many of our floor plans feature optional bedrooms, sunrooms and lofts. All of these structural choices can be conveniently rolled into your mortgage, but keep in mind they can impact base pricing.

  2. Like most new home builders, our new construction homes have a range of included features, such as flooring, cabinetry and light fixtures. With Richmond American, the features included in our homes are second to none and many color choices are available. No matter the builder, it’s important to ask questions about inclusions up front. Essential features such as cabinetry and flooring are included!

    Insider tip: If you purchase a to-be-built home from Richmond American, you’ll work hand-in-hand with a professional design consultant to create a cohesive look for your new living spaces—a complimentary service! We also understand that a buyer’s wish list will differ from customary product offerings. In addition to hundreds of standard selections, we’re proud to offer hundreds of exciting upgrades to bring your vision to life. If you’ve already begun envisioning the types of finishes and fixtures you’d like in your new home, create a Pinterest board so you can show your designer.

What’s included with a custom home:

The short answer: not a lot! The trade-off is maximum flexibility. Anything your architect and interior designer can dream up that meets building codes, you can have. Speaking of which, you will have to hire the professionals yourself. If you hire a Design-Build Firm, they may help coordinate the hiring of subcontractors, but ultimately you’ll be responsible for monitoring design and construction to make sure the people you’ve hired stay on track.

Working with a custom builder, you may also have to shop multiple vendors at several stores to find all of your fixtures and finishes. The interior designer you hire can to help you manage the process and ensure your selections are well coordinated.

Insider tip: Hiring your own professionals can be quite costly and unexpected expenses can add up fast. You’ll also have to purchase land and make sure the plot is developed and able to house a residential property. If the only dream home you can envision for yourself is a completely custom home, this may be your path. But keep an eye on that price tag! It can skyrocket fast.

Think new construction may be the way to go? Visit to find dream home today!


September 22, 2017 at 5:42am

JBLM team ready for softball showdown Saturday

Robert Straughn delivers a pitch during a recent JBLM team softball practice at the Lewis North Athletic Complex. JBLM PAO photo

A few weeks ago, service members from the 22nd Special Tactics Squadron and the Group Support Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne), were battling for the Joint Base Lewis-McChord Commander’s Cup Softball Championship. Rivals become allies as players from both teams will go against a group of local Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard members in an exhibition match at Cheney Stadium in Tacoma Saturday.

The game’s opening ceremonies will begin at 3 p.m. and will be part of an overall day of festivities at the home of the Tacoma Rainiers, the AAA-affiliate of the Seattle Mariners.

There is a mutual respect between both sides and team-captains — Robert Straughn, of GSB, 1st SFG, and Brandon Simpson, of 22nd STS — are familiar enough with each other to plan the best lineup out of the 18 available players.

“(He and I) both have really good knowledge on softball and baseball,” Straughn said. “You will see a team that looks like it’s played together for years.”

Both teams combined for 49 hits during the JBLM softball title game Aug. 31. The 22nd STS won 17-6 in a five-inning, mercy-shortened game.

When JBLM championship clubs played their game at the Lewis North Athletic Complex, the distance from home plate to the outfield fences are 300 feet throughout. Cheney Stadium’s center field wall is 425 feet from home and includes a wall that stands 29 feet tall. The left field and right field walls are 325 feet from the plate, while left center and right center are 385 feet away.

“Because of the fact the field is so big, we have to change our approach,” said Brandon Simpson, co-captain from the 22th STS. “Now if they decide the play the field close (to the infield), then we just have to counter the defense.”

The creation of the game builds off an event last year hosted by the Tacoma Navy League, who worked with USO Northwest to have the local Navy face a team of Coast Guard and Marine Corps service members — a game the Navy won handily, 24-6.

According to Karen Getchell of the Tacoma Navy League, the Tacoma Rainiers requested that the military softball game include Army and Air Force members from JBLM. The event coordinators agreed and made it an exhibition between two multiservice teams.

“It’s just a great way for all of the different branches to come together and compete,” Getchell said.

The game between JBLM and local Navy, Marines and Coast Guard is the main event, but there are several additional activities for military families. Kids will have the chance to run the bases and participate in baseball clinics focused on pitching, hitting and catching fundamentals.

The event starts at 11 a.m. and is scheduled to last until 5 p.m. Admission is free, but participating in the home run derby is $5 and the fast pitch booth is $1. The concession stands will be open at Cheney Stadium for food sales.

September 21, 2017 at 1:22pm

1st SFG (Airborne) host Seattle Seahawks at JBLM

Seattle Seahawks mascot Blitz looks on as 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) perform a simulated stress fire exercise at the 1st Special Forces THOR3 facility on JBLM, Sept. 19. Photo credit: Sgt. John Conroy

Members of the Seattle Seahawks visited the 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) soldiers at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Sept. 19, to officially kick off a season-long partnership. Since 2012, the Seahawks have partnered with a military service each season, and this season the team selected the 1st SFG (A).

The 1st SFG (A) commander, Col. Guillaume Beaurpere, accepted the 12th Man flag from U.S. Navy representative, Rear Admiral Gary Mayes, commander of Navy Region Northwest, in an informal change of command ceremony.

"Today is about partnership," Beaurpere said to the more than 200 soldiers and sailors in attendance. "Two teams come together to join in the spirit of competition and commitment to service. On one side, you have our nation's most elite athletes with a passion for a sport and a commitment to excellence. On the other side, you have a national treasure in the men and women who choose to serve their nation and protect our liberties."

Before the change of command ceremony, the Seahawks visited the 1st SFG (A) compound, reflecting at the group's memorial wall which bears the names of its fallen soldiers.

"It was an honor to see that memorial," said Shaquill Griffin, rookie cornerback for the Seahawks. "It shows the respect they have for their fallen members."

The Seahawks received a tour of the Tactical Human Optimization, Rapid Rehabilitation and Reconditioning (THOR3) facility where the 1st SFG (A) trains its soldiers to be tactical athletes as well as providing them with resources such as nutritional guidance, strength training instructors and physical therapy. The team was given an in-depth demonstration of what goes into a typical workout including navigating difficult obstacles while wearing heavy body armor and finishing with a simulated stress fire exercise.

Afterwards team members signed autographs and posed for pictures. The lines stretched out of the facility as servicemembers gathered to have footballs, jerseys and other memorabilia signed as a memento of the special occasion. Mutual admirations were exchanged between players and servicemembers.

"I felt like I wanted autographs from them," Griffin said.

"Having the Seahawks visit was an amazing and humbling experience," said Sgt. Shai Maya Dawson, a 1st SFG (A) human resource specialist. "Knowing that they appreciate us as much as we appreciate them was definitely something I will always remember."

The day included static displays of military freefall parachutes, scuba equipment and un-manned aerial capabilities, as well as a MH-47 Chinook and MH-60L Black Hawk helicopters provided by the 4th Battalion, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment. The visit concluded with Beaurpere thanking every member of the Seahawks and their staff for visiting JBLM and 1st SFG (A).

As the players boarded the bus to depart, handshakes and well wishes were exchanged as members of each team bid the other good luck in the upcoming season and on future missions.

September 21, 2017 at 1:13pm

Meet the Army's 'Dungeon Dragons'

The 35th Air Defense Artillery Brigade recently completed the largest Patriot modernization project ever conducted outside a U.S. depot facility. Photo credit: Staff Sgt. Monik Phan

More than four stories below ground, soldiers from the 35th Air Defense Artillery Brigade provide 24/7 real-time surveillance of the tactical ballistic missile threat on the Korean Peninsula. Known as the "Dungeon Dragons," these teams of soldiers are essential in monitoring, receiving and disseminating information to ensure U.S. ballistic missile defense is prepared to respond to any threats in the Korean theater of operations.


From the most southern point in South Korea to the 38th parallel, the 8th Army mantra of "fight tonight" reverberates throughout every unit along the way. This motto is embraced by the soldiers of both the Fire Direction Center and Air Defense Artillery Fire Control Officer office, who coordinate on the early detection of missile threats on the peninsula.

"The primary mission of the FDC and the ADAFCO is to provide situational awareness to our brigade commander on the Korean Peninsula," said Staff Sgt. Raul Duenas, an air defense battle management system operator with Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 35th Air Defense Artillery Brigade.

As an air defense battle management system operator, Duenas works in the Fire Direction Center and monitors multiple systems that provide a common operating picture of tactical ballistic missiles and air breathing threats. The images are depicted with detailed information to enable his team to submit time-sensitive reports both vertically and horizontally for 360-degree situational awareness when a missile is launched.

"If something were to happen, we would be the first people to know about it," said Duenas. "We will be the first ones to see it. We will have to quickly react to make the necessary phone calls and disseminate information about the event."

The Fire Direction Center and Air Defense Artillery Fire Control Officer office personnel work around the clock to ensure every potential threat is observed. Their systems are always collecting and saving data so they can quickly analyze the information to prepare and consolidate situational reports for the brigade command team.

"Our job is to monitor the screens to see the first signs of any threat," said Spc. Ryan Buchanan, an Air Defense Enhanced Early Warning Operator from Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 35th Air Defense Artillery Brigade. "We are the ones that monitor the radars and see what happens in the air."

The brigade's monitoring systems are capable of identifying the type of missile that is launched with the use of their advance radar technology, said Spc. Christopher Lee, an air defense battle management system operator from Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 35th Air Defense Artillery Brigade.

Due to the North Korea threat, the brigade is always conducting training to help their units stay prepared, said Pfc. Dorold Nguyen, a Patriot Fire Control Enhanced Operator/Maintainer with the brigade. The units are always training to ensure everything is fully mission capable and batteries are at the directed posture of readiness.

One of the most essential components within the Air Defense Artillery community is the data-link architecture that allows units to communicate with each other while they are geographically dispersed. Although there are measures in place for units to fight autonomously if needed, the brigade is most effective when communication links are networked.

"We are always testing our communication links between batteries and battalions to make sure they stay running," said Nguyen. "When everyone passes the information amongst each other, it helps us fight together."

The brigade recently completed an internal exercise with their Republic of Korea - Army Air Defense Artillery counterparts at Osan Air Base in order to prepare for the annual peninsula-wide exercise Ulchi Freedom Guardian. The purpose of the training was to ensure the brigade operation centers, along with the crews that fight the air battles during Ulchi Freedom Guardian, are familiar with their systems and processes.

One of the biggest benefits of the combined exercise is the ability to conduct training and implement battle drills through digitized simulations, said Staff Sgt. Jordan R. Hobbs, an air defense battle management system operator with Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 35th Air Defense Artillery Brigade.

The brigade's combined exercise reinforced the leadership's emphasis of enhancing interoperability. Due to the high rate of turnover in the Korean theater of operations, there is a premium on conducting joint training events to maintain enduring relationships. Furthermore, the more the units work together in a training capacity, the better prepared they will be for real-world events.

Christopher Tarpley, event lead from Missile Defense Agency, explains the Air Defense Artillery exercises in Korea are simulated scenarios that provide a baseline of understanding of how the South Korean military and its allied forces could defend themselves during an attack, such as a tactical ballistic missile threat from North Korea.

During the exercises, soldiers with the 35th Air Defense Artillery Brigade coordinate with the Republic of Korea air force and the army to de-conflict airspace amongst each other. They are able to utilize each other's systems to identify different types of aircrafts and other objects that are visible in the airspace they monitor.

The 35th Air Defense Artillery Brigade continues to implement combined and joint training whenever possible to enhance readiness and leverage capabilities. At each echelon throughout the brigade, combined and joint operations are planned to improve interoperability. The next large-scale, peninsula-wide training exercise is Key Resolve, and will occur in the winter of 2018.

September 21, 2017 at 1:05pm

Gray PT uniform disappearing from formations as wear-out deadline looms

Soldiers in their new black Army Physical Fitness Uniforms conclude an off-duty physical fitness session at the track in front of the Gaffney Field House on Fort Meade, Md., Sept. 14. Photo credit: David Vergun

Just five months ago, about half of the soldiers participating in organized physical fitness training at Fort Meade, Maryland, were seen wearing the grey Improved Physical Fitness Uniform.

On the morning of Sept. 14, inside the Gaffney Field House and outside track, there were only a couple of soldiers still in the IPFU. Dozens of others were seen sporting the new black Army Physical Fitness Uniform.

By Oct. 1, that number wearing the IPFU will reach zero Army-wide, as the wear-out date expires with "mandatory possession" kicking in for the APFU, per All Army Activities message 209/2014, which was released Sept. 3, 2014.


Soldiers seem happy with their new APFUs, according to a small opinion sampling conducted at Fort Meade.

That doesn't mean there aren't some sentimental feelings about the IPFU, however.

Spc. Lafavien Dixon, from Company C, 742nd Military Intelligence Battalion on Fort Meade, said he plans to wear the IPFU for organized PT right up to the wear-out date, out of a "sense of nostalgia."

Any time a uniform changes, soldiers will look back with a sense of fondness and happy memories, but not necessarily regret, he said.

The black with gold lettering design in particular, is something Dixon said he likes on the new uniform, as well as the two small ID card or key pockets in the shorts. The built-in spandex in the shorts is another improvement, he added.

Sgt. Christopher Davis Garland, Co. C., 742nd MI Bn., said he likes the overall look and feel of the new uniform and is supportive of the switch, but will miss the "cottony feel" of the gray reflective shirt.

Rather than discard the IPFU, he said he plans to wear parts of it when doing yard work.

Garland, a self-described "PT freak," said he will also wear parts of the IPFU when participating in off-duty Spartan races, which include a number of obstacles that must be negotiated. He said he didn't want to tear up his APFU doing that.

Spc. Douglas Banbury, from Co. C., 742nd MI Bn., said he purchased his APFU a year ago "to weigh the differences between them."

Like other soldiers, he said he's pleased with the look and feel of the APFU, particularly the material, which he said enables the uniform to dry out faster when wet.

The other difference, he said, is that in his personal view the APFU feels a bit less comfortable in cold weather than the IPFU, but more comfortable in hot and humid conditions.

The only malfunction with his own APFU thus far, he said, is one of the key/card pockets detached. He reasoned that since he got the uniform early on when they first became available, he thinks it was a problem in the initial assembly production run. But the other pocket is OK, he added, so he can still carry his key/ID card.

Spc. Jarvis Smith, who was PTing after-hours with the other three co-workers from 742nd MI Bn., said the APFU shorts are longer than the IPFU, and this is a positive when it comes to modesty.

Like the others, he said he approves of the switch and plans to continue to wear parts of the IPFU around the house and yard to get as much mileage out of them as he can before they eventually fall apart.

Another soldier interviewed said she plans to give her old IPFU to her wife -- who is not a soldier -- to wear.

A main goal of the PT uniform switch "was to use high-performance fabrics in the APFU without increasing the cost from the IPFU," according to the ALARACT, which noted 32 improvements, including the "identification/key pockets, a redesigned stretchable lining in the trunks and heat mitigation and female sizing."

All of the changes were incorporated based on soldier input and extensive technical and user testing in various climates, the ALARACT added.

September 21, 2017 at 12:54pm

Quintin's quest to kick cancer

Honorary Sgt. Quintin Hall, 1st Squadron, 14th Cavalry Regiment, rides tall in the back of a Stryker combat vehicle during his “Day in the Life of a Soldier” at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Sept. 13.

The I Corps and Joint Base Lewis-McChord commanding general, Lt. Gen. Gary Volesky, and senior enlisted advisor, Command Sgt. Maj. Walter Tagalicud, had the pleasure of enlisting and promoting 7-year-old Quintin Hall, Sept. 13, to begin his day as an honorary cavalry soldier.

After being welcomed into the ranks of America's I Corps, Quintin reported to his new unit, 1st Squadron, 14th Cavalry Regiment, and put through the paces of a cavalry soldier. Taking into account what this young man has been through over the last 18 months, somehow he charged through the day with a smile.

Quintin and his parents, who live near the Washington border in northern Idaho, received the stage IV high-risk neuroblastoma diagnosis in February 2016. They were told to "keep him comfortable." That wasn't an acceptable option for them.

Neuroblastoma has a science fiction ring to it evoking images of futuristic weapons wreaking havoc against enemies. Sadly, there is nothing sci-fi about this very real form of childhood cancer, and Quintin, with his parents Justin and Jacqy, is fighting a battle with it every day.

"(During treatment) he really enjoyed tanks," said Jacqy. "Any time we would ask him to read books it was always the tank books or learning about different types of combat vehicles."

Through all of the hospital stays and surgeries, Quintin mentally copes with the treatments by associating them with military weaponry fighting the bad cells in his body. Armored vehicles, specifically tanks, most recently peaked his interest and have made explaining the current round of treatment easier to explain in a way he understands.

"Oftentimes during treatment the best way to explain to him -- what is the chemo doing or what is the transplant doing -- we would use tank references," said Justin. "We're making your cells into tanks to fight the cancer, or we're giving the tank cells an upgrade. So that has helped him to understand what is going on."

Quintin is currently in the lab stages of treatment, which allows him some much needed time away from the hospital and the opportunity to become a soldier for a day with 1st Squadron, 14th Cavalry Regiment.

Quintin began his training at the Engagement Skills Trainer (EST) leading his fire team through various on-screen scenarios to neutralize enemy targets using specially modified M4 service rifles.

"Reloading, cover me," yelled Pfc. Vincent Southerland during one of the scenarios.

"I've got you covered," responded Quintin.

Following the EST session, Quintin returned to the 1-14 CAV area and was introduced to several more weapons and tools used during combat missions by the cavalry soldiers. While the array of equipment elicited smiles and intrigue, nothing could compare to his reaction to what was about to round the corner.

Quintin was offered a radio handset and instructed to order a personnel pickup. What he didn't know was that there were two Stryker combat vehicles staged awaiting his order to drive to his location.

The day concluded in historical cavalry fashion with Maj. Deshane Greaser presenting Quintin with is own silver spurs and inducting him into the Order of the Spur.

September 19, 2017 at 9:56am

Pershing's Last Patriot in Lakewood

The WWI Centennial is not complete without watching Pershing's Last Patriot presented by the Lakewood Historical Society and showing Sept 26 in Lakewood, 6 to 8 p.m. at the Lakewood Library, 6300 Wildaire Rd SW.

FREE showing of documentary about Frank Woodruff Buckles, the last American veteran of World War I. Discussion following movie, led by Alan Archambault, military historian.

WWI's very last veteran Frank Buckles documentary has been called the "Most powerful story in American History." Be prepared for a hypnotic ride of emotions as you are captivated by this film. 

Born in 1901, Buckles enlisted at the age of 16 for the Great War. He became America's last survivor of WWI and lived to the age of 110.  

Honored by President Bush and Barack Obama Buckles "Pershing's Last Patriot" Frank Buckles became a National obsession as he fought for a WWI Memorial in Washington DC. A major public fight broke out upon his death as Speaker John Boehner banished his body from the Rotunda. 

Buckles became the oldest person(age 108) to ever testify in Senate as he was required to testify as to why a Memorial to 5 million veterans was needed in Washington DC. 

In this film you will learn of his WWI experience, his time as a POW in World War two and the last 5 years of his life as he became one of the most famous living veterans.

Award winning film maker and biographer of Buckles tells this story with private footage from Frank's life.

September 15, 2017 at 10:33am

Common Travel Problems and How to Deal with Them

Holidays are supposed to be the most stress-free time of our lives. However, they can end up causing quite a bit of trouble from dealing with luggage to ending up in a horrible hotel. So, what can you do?

Here are some of the most common travel problems and tips on how to deal with them without losing sleep – or your mind.

Overbooked or cancelled flights

Airlines are notorious for overbooking flights due to no-shows. You really want to avoid having to deal with this problem by showing at the airport as early as possible.

If you’re not in hurry or travelling for business reasons, you might want to volunteer to travel on the next flight. Airlines often compensate volunteers well – you might even turn the holiday into a budget holiday this way. So, be open for the idea!

On the other hand, if your flight is cancelled, do seek for compensation. In Europe, airlines must give up to €600 in compensation if the flight is cancelled or delayed for over three hours. You should give your details to the airline and seek for food and drink vouchers – airlines must even help you find accommodation if the holdup is lengthy.

Getting through the airport security in style

You don’t want to spend a huge amount of time in the security queue at the airport. The easiest way to avoid having to unpack everything is to make sure you pack the hand luggage right at home.

Do remember to leave liquids away from the hand luggage. If you need any cosmetics or other such liquids, place them in a resalable plastic bag. Note that the container cannot exceed 100ml and you can’t have more than a litre with you. Don’t take sharp objects with you – however, nail scissors and knitting needles are fine. If you smoke, you can only have one lighter with you.

Keep the plastic bags at the top of the bag, so you can easily take them out at the security. Before you walk through the gate, remove your belt and any jewellery you might have. You should also take off your jacket and any scarfs you might be wearing.

Lost luggage

Before you start checking in luggage, think whether you could simply travel with a carry-on. You can find that the carry-on luggage sizes are rather generous and you might avoid the annoyance of waiting for luggage at your destination by travelling light.

Of course, this is not always possible. When you notice your luggage is lost, contact the airline immediately and give them details for sending it to you. You can claim through the airline although claiming through your travel insurance is often much faster – therefore, remember to have a good travel insurance in place!

Bad accommodation

The easiest way to avoid accommodation problems is to do your research. Read hotel reviews and check out travel portal websites and the hotel’s own website to find out more. Keep in mind the location as well – you can sometimes spot a bad hotel simply by noticing the neighbourhood it is in.

Be clever when booking accommodation. For example, if you follow the link, you could enjoy discounts on four or five-star hotels without paying the full price: Chain hotels might seem boring or expensive, but they can sometimes be a safe choice for a holiday. Not to mention, big hotels often run membership campaigns that could help you save money.

If you are just staying at the hotel for one night and you arrive after 6pm, you might ask for a free upgrade. Hotels are more than happy to satisfy your needs and could be willing to provide you with a better experience.

Spending too much

Most people also end up spending too much money at the destination. You might have been smart when booking the holiday but suddenly all caution goes out the window when you are finally there.

It’s important to have a travel budget – you could spread your cash to as many envelopes as you are planning to stay at your destination. This means you only spend the allocated amount of money.

Getting sick

Of course, the most annoying and rather common travel problem is to fall ill. Long flights, new climate and different food can all cause troubles. The key is to dress appropriately – remember that the airplanes are colder than the sunny beach you are travelling to.

You should also be prepared in terms of medicine. Pack basic painkillers and stomach relief pills with you. Lacto bacteria pills are good for avoiding stomach bugs from new food. Remember to rest and listen to your body. A little nap might help you avoid getting too sick.

If you start feeling horrible and symptoms like diarrhoea and vomiting doesn’t stop within 48 hours, consult a doctor. Your accommodation should have more information on where to seek medical assistance – you can also check with your travel insurance provider.

The above travel problems are all too common. However, you can avoid them with proper preparation. In the end, travelling is about staying positive and being aware that the unexpected might happen!


September 15, 2017 at 7:02am

McChord residents treated to free food, games

1st Lt. Darryl Holland, middle, of 42nd Military Police Brigade, helps Rylee Gillespie, 6, of JBLM, adjust the spotlight in his patrol car during the McChord Field Housing Block Party at Carter Lake Elementary School Saturday. JBLM PAO photo

Free food, games, raffles and fellowship were the theme of the day Saturday as a few hundred service members and their families enjoyed the second annual McChord Field Housing Block Party at Carter Lake Elementary School.

Many parents and children walked, rode bicycles, skateboarded or pushed strollers to the neighborhood event aimed at enhanced family readiness, spiritual resiliency and community bonding. The event was sponsored by the Joint Base Lewis-McChord Religious Support Office and the McChord Field Chapel.

“Free food is always good when you’ve got four kids,” said Maj. David Thompson, 62nd Maintenance Squadron, as his children, Simon, 9; Emi, 6; Cece, 8; and Mary, 3, chomped on hotdogs and chips before participating in organized games at the event.

The three older children took turns inside large plastic, inflated Zorb balls, which look much like a hamster ball. Mary stayed close to grandparents, Dave and Lois Thompson, of St. Louis, Mo., who were in town for the week visiting four of their 18 grandchildren.

“It’s nice they have events like this,” Lois said.

The Thompson children are home-schooled, so the block party was a good opportunity for the kids to play and get to know their neighbors.

“I’ve seen seven or eight families from our neighborhood,” David Thompson said.

April Johns and her 7-year-old daughter, Isabella, 10-year-old son, Jack, and husband, Staff Sgt. Trevor Johns, moved to Joint Base Lewis-McChord from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, in the middle of August.

Johns said her family was a bit stressed moving and getting the kids ready for the start of the school year at Carter Lake Elementary, so the block party offered a way to relax and get to know other military families.

Isabella enjoyed creating crafts at the event, such as a stuffed bear she drew a face for. She added premade eyes and buttons for his shirt before adding his name “Ed” on a small purse, which she also decorated.

“I painted a rock, too, and rode in the plastic ball,” Isabella said, a big smile on her face. “I’m having fun.”

Shelton Griffin, a volunteer with McChord Field Chapel, and his wife, 1st Sgt. Adriana Griffin, 361st Recruiting Squadron, spent much of the three-hour event helping young children use the Zorb balls — one of the event’s most popular activities.

“You have to stand up and put your arms through here,” Griffin told 6-year-old, Gustavo Diaz, as the youth readied to play in the Zorb.

Gustavo’s mom, military spouse, Tasha Morales, helped push her son’s Zorb as the boy laughed and ran toward another of the about a dozen balls. Gustavo is a home-schooled first-grader and has a 5-year-old brother, Emmanuel, who also enjoyed the block party with their mom.

“It’s fun for the kids, and they get to meet and make new friends,” Morales said. “We really had a lot of fun.”

September 15, 2017 at 7:01am

Veterans begin 4,600-mile cycling journey from Seattle

Paragon Media Andrew Quamme rides through the streets of Lakewood as part of the Old Glory Relay Tuesday. The relay is part of a 4,600-mile relay from Seattle to Tampa, Fla.

SEATTLE — The fourth iteration of Team Red, White and Blue’s Old Glory Relay started at sunrise Monday morning at CenturyLink Stadium in Seattle.

Monday, the 16th anniversary of 9-11, marked the start of a cross-country journey that will feature hundreds of veterans participating from all branches and eras of service.

More than 70 teams, which include veterans and their supporters, will carry a single American flag over 4,600 miles in 62 days from Seattle to Tampa, Fla. Since leaving Monday through Veterans Day, the teams will be running, walking and cycling with an American flag across each leg of the relay in their mission to bring the flag home to Team RWB’s national headquarters in Florida.

Special guests at the start in Seattle included:

• Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates,

• Kevin Johnson, CEO of Starbucks,

• Seattle Sounders FC retired players Zach Scott and Marcus Hahnemann,

• J.J. Pinter, executive director of Team RWB,

• Brennan Mullaney, deputy director of Team RWB.

“We are beyond excited to start the Old Glory Relay, which is an important national event for the Team Red, White and Blue community,” Pinter said. “It’s the fourth time we’re crossing the country, and it just gets better every time thanks to the amazing group of veterans, supporters, sponsors and communities engaged along the course. This journey aims to send a message that our country is stronger and better when we’re unified, connected and helping veterans transition for success.”

The Old Glory Relay is a one-of-a-kind experience filled with unity, patriotism and pride as teams safely complete their assigned daily relay legs between the times of sunrise and sunset. Following the kickoff in Seattle, Old Glory moved south to Lakewood where the route will take them along the West Coast through the Cascade Range before crossing the Golden Gate Bridge and through San Francisco.

Continuing south, Old Glory will connect Team RWB Eagles and supporters in Los Angeles and San Diego before heading eastward through the desert landscapes of Arizona and New Mexico and crossing San Antonio and Houston.

For the final stretch, the relay will cross the Florida Panhandle before finishing in Tampa, home of Team Red, White and Blue’s National Firebase, with a fitting retreat celebration at the Westfield Brandon mall.

For more information and to access the full list of cities, visit

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