Northwest Military Blogs: Army West Blog

Posts made in: 'J.M. Simpson' (3) Currently Viewing: 1 - 3 of 3

December 7, 2009 at 2:44pm

Hello from 5th Brigade

Sunday, December 6

Left Dubai International Airport on time and on a Boeing 737 that had seen better days.

Landed at Kandahar Air Field at exactly 11:15 am local time.

The weather was clear and sunny, and the mercury had climbed to about 65 degrees.

"But it does get cold at night around here," one deplaning passenger said to me.

If I didn't know better, I would have thought I had I stepped off the aircraft and into the National Training Center (NTC) outside of Fort Irvin, California.  The topography is identical - long stretches of sand broken up by large rock outcroppings.

I found my way to the Media Support Center (MSC) and signed some paperwork.  I was told I would pick up my press pass in the morning.

Kudos to SFC Robert Couture, SFC Teresa Coble and Capt. Omar Villarreal, 22nd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment (MPAD) for their nice work.

A crew from Fox News was just leaving; a correspondent from CNN and two writers from Time Magazine were just arriving.

The Fort Lewis Ranger Newspaper was in some newsworthy company.

Be that as it may, the MSC is a joint Army-Air Force operation that handles all media arrivals and departures in southern Afghanistan.  The staff was friendly and knowledgeable.

With nothing else to do, I found my room, secured my gear and decided to take a closer look at my surroundings.

I discovered a PX, a MWR and the gym.  Running away from the center of the base are housing units for the various NATO forces stationed here.

Everything here is coated in a fine, whitish/gray dust. 

Besides the large contingent of American forces (Army, Marines, Navy and Air Force), I also saw British, Canadian, French, Dutch and Slovakian troops as I walked around the Boardwalk, the center of activity here.

The Boardwalk - which gets its name from the very large, rough-hewn planks of wood from which it is constructed - is a very large (think almost a football field sized) square around which are numerous shops and eateries.

Outside of one coffee shop is a very large wireless Internet connection site where literally 30 to 40 individuals were engaged with their computers.

Military members can shop for scarves, electronic gadgets, leather goods, carpets and jewelry (to name a few) as they stroll the Boardwalk.

There is a very cosmopolitan feel to the Boardwalk - almost as if one were back home in America or Europe.

But this is Afghanistan, the Kandahar Province, home to the Taliban.

As the sun headed west, the temperature began to drop sharply and the sky began to turn a deep blue.

I figured it best to call it a day.  On the morrow I would lay the foundation to begin my work here. 

Filed under: J.M. Simpson,

September 24, 2009 at 11:38am

Memorial boxes honor 1/17 soldiers



The cedar box is simple in its design and large in its message.

On the cover is the crest of the 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment.  When the box is opened the following words appear:

With deepest respect from the soldiers and families of the "Buffaloes" 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment

"I am meditative when I make these memorial boxes," said Robert Bussabarger, co-owner of Millennia Wood, as he stood next to his wife, Shelley Ferer, at the Olympia Farmer's Market.

"Each box represents the story of a life," said Ferer.

Since 1985, the couple has worked in the Olympia area.  The work is simple and beautiful.

One box cover clearly showed an apple orchard shrouded in fog, creating a hauntingly beautiful view. 

Each memorial box is individually crafted from ancient growth cedar trees that can live to be 800 to 1,000 years old.  The wood is water resistant, lasts for centuries and is easy to work with, said Ferer.

A laser engraver allows the couple to put whatever is desired on the cover.

The proud crest of the 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment is one of the latest images to be engraved.

"It is one way to show respect to the soldier and the family with these boxes," continued Ferer.

In early June, members from the battalion's family readiness group approached Ferer and Bussabarger. They liked the simplicity and dignity that the cedar boxes offered, and they wanted to honor the family members of fallen soldiers. So they soon began a relationship with Millennia Wood.

"I am very impressed and honored by the group of women who came to me," said Ferer. "They are doing this out of their own pockets, and their efforts are admirable to provide a tribute to those who have lost a soldier."

While the grain of the cedar determines the size and shape of the memorial box, the ones Ferer and Bussabarger have made for the battalion measures approximately 6 by 8 inches in size.

"We are deeply honored to have the occasion to honor these families," reiterated Ferer.

"I simply hope that we have to make no more of these," added Bussabarger.

For more information on the memorial boxes, visit or call (360) 352-7239.

Photo: Shelley Ferer and Robert Bussabarger, owners of Millennia Wood,
show one of the memorial boxes they have made for 1st Battalion, 17th
Infantry Regiment. Photography by J.M. Simpson

Filed under: J.M. Simpson, Memorial, Olympia,

August 28, 2009 at 11:31am

Building a wall


War-Mem-300 Joe Zelazny and Chuck O'Donahue are determined that Pierce County military veterans not be forgotten.

"We are veterans, and we want all veterans honored," said Zelazny, a World War II veteran and former prisoner of war, as he walked the grounds of the New Tacoma War Memorial Park. "A veteran is a veteran and should be honored."

The memorial park is located at Jackson Avenue and Highway 16.  Near the intersection is a marble monument honoring those who served during World War II.

"I want all veterans from all wars honored here," repeated Zelazny, who heads up the Veterans Memorial Committee. "This honors only those veterans from the Second World War," he continued as he walked around the existing memorial.

"We want a wall that honors all military members from Pierce County."

The two men are working toward the creation of a Wall of Honor.

"We're not asking a lot," added O'Donahue, Cold War veteran and club manager for Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 10018. "We're simply asking to honor all who have lived in this county."

To that end, Zelazny and O'Donahue have worked to bring attention to the creation of the wall honoring those Pierce County veterans who have served in every military engagement from World War I to the present.

The memorial will be located in a serene setting in the memorial park where family, friends and local residents can visit and honor those individuals who have served. The name, rank, branch of service, foreign service, and any other submitted information for each veteran would be etched into a six-by-six inch granite tile and placed on the wall. Any veteran who served honorably and is or ever has been a resident of Pierce County is eligible to be honored.

After the completion of the Wall of Honor, the two soldiers will turn their energies to building a monument honoring those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.

"We want to create an 'Ultimate Sacrifice Wall' honoring those from Pierce County who gave their lives in defense of this country," said Zelazny.

The cost per title is $50.

Individuals who wish to contribute or obtain an application for a tile should contact Zelazny at (253) 752-8266 or O'Donahue at (253) 759-0817.

Photo:  Joe Zelazny and Chuck O'Donahue are determined to see that all Pierce County veterans are honored. Photo by J.M. Simpson

Filed under: J.M. Simpson, Memorial, Veterans,

Recent Comments

Angelic said:

How do we sign up???


Herbert said:

Military families need support because the situations can be...


Robin Woo said:

Thank you CPT Harris! That was a memorable tour. Our soldiers today are just amazing!! A...


Feliz in Seattle said:

The 4th of July 2013 Freedom Celebration was awesome! The presentation of Colors,, the Military...


Matthew Carpenter said:

Proud to have served with the unit from April 2004 to October 2007. One deployment to Iraq in...

about 528th Qm. Co. Cobras is scheduled for inactivation in September.