Monday, May 29, 2017

Memorial Day 2017

Above: A Memorial Day ceremony was held in the Capitol Rotunda on Monday. The event was open to the public. From left to right, at the podium, is William Doucette III, chair of the Thurston County Veterans Council, Major General Mark Stammer, DCG, I Corps, City of Tumwater Mayor Pete Kmet, City of Lacey Mayor Andy Ryder, and City of Olympia Mayor Cheryl Selby.

By Janine Gates
Little Hollywood

Memorial Day is a day to remember those who paid the ultimate sacrifice during times of war or conflict.

At a ceremony Monday sponsored by the Thurston County Veterans Council in the Capitol Rotunda, those who served in each military branch were acknowledged, stories were told, and tears were shed.

City of Tumwater Mayor Pete Kmet presented a poignant story about his father, Michael, who was stationed in Australia and New Guinea during WWII.

Like most servicemen, Kmet said, his father said little about his service history.

“On one of our early Saturday morning fishing trips, I asked my dad if he had ever been in combat. He said that no, he hadn’t, but had come close once when the Japanese attacked the base he was working on,” said Kmet.

“The only reason the Japanese didn’t reach his position was because a young private had almost single handedly stopped the attack by staying at his machine gun post when everyone else had retreated. The young man was only a teenager and had died during his effort and received the Medal of Honor for his sacrifice,” the elder Kmet told his son.

Based on that little bit of information, Kmet decided to do some research, and discovered that the young man was Nathan K. Van Noy, Jr., nicknamed Junior, born in Grace, Idaho.

Seven months after he was drafted and entered the service at age 18, Van Noy was wounded in action, but refused to be evacuated. A few weeks later, in October 1943, Van Noy was stationed at his post in New Guinea when the Allies were attacked. 

Van Noy remained at his post, ignoring the calls of nearby soldiers urging him to withdraw, and continued to fire with deadly accuracy. He expended every round, and was found covered with wounds, dead, beside his gun. 

Kmet said his father visited the site of the carnage after the attack.

“I could tell by the way he told me his brief story that he held this young soldier in the highest regard. You know, my dad never talked much about his service. Now I think I understand why just a little bit more,” said Kmet. He urged those who served to share their story with family and friends.

“Whether you were on the front lines or not, they will be forever grateful in knowing a little bit more about their family history,” he said.

With a resolution passed by the Thurston County Commissioners earlier this week, Commissioner Bud Blake announced that Thurston County was designated a Purple Heart County, in honor of those who have sacrificed for our country.

Above: Hundreds of members of Rolling Thunder prepare to hold a ceremony at the Washington State Vietnam Veterans Memorial on Monday. Rolling Thunder is a national nonprofit with 90 chapters throughout the United States who are united in the cause to bring full accountability for prisoners of war and missing in action of all wars. 

Monday, May 22, 2017

Mount St. Helens Offers Life Lessons

Above: A careful peek beyond the rim and into the crater of Mount St. Helens on May 19, 2017. Mount St. Helens, “Lawetlat’la,” pronounced Lah-weight-LOT-la, is translated as “smoker,” in the Cowlitz Indian language. Amongst the clouds, Mount Rainier can be seen in the distance.

By Janine Gates
Little Hollywood

Almost everyone of a certain age in the Pacific Northwest remembers where they were when Mount St. Helens blew on May 18, 1980.

I was in Seattle in our apartment on Beacon Hill, talking with my mom in her bedroom. We felt the earthquake and the lamp on her desk headed my way.

For thousands of years, Mount St. Helens has been a central place in the culture and mythology of the Cowlitz and Yakama Tribes, where resources were gathered and young people were sent to test themselves.

With a few members of the Olympia Mountaineers this weekend, I had the opportunity to test my preparation skills and endurance for the 12 mile roundtrip hike to its 8,366 foot summit.

Starting at the winter route trailhead near Marble Mountain Sno-Park at 5:00 a.m., it quickly became a glorious, sunny day that required ample water, food, and sunscreen. 

Glissading down thousands of feet was a thrill, and helped shave time off on the way down. Snowshoes were helpful to deal with the slushy portions.

In 2013, the area of Mount St. Helens above the tree line, just over 12,000 acres, was designated on the National Register of Historic Places as a Traditional Cultural Property of the Cowlitz and Yakama Tribal groups.

More than 80,000 properties are listed in the National Register of Historic Places, but only twenty-three, such as Gettysburg, are traditional cultural properties. Mount St. Helens is only the second such listing in Washington. The first was Snoqualmie Falls.

“Protection of our cultural resources is one of the most important things we do. The listing of Lawetlat’la as a Traditional Cultural Property honors our relationship with one of the principal features of our traditional landscape. For millennia, the mountain has been a place to seek spiritual guidance. The mountain has erupted many times in our memory, but each time has rebuilt herself anew. She demonstrates that a slow and patient path of restoration is the successful one, a lesson we have learned long ago,” wrote Bill Iyall, chair of the Cowlitz Tribe, in the Tribe’s 2013 fall newsletter.

Iyall's words became newly relevant to me as I tested my mental and physical abilities, thought of loved ones, and made new friends along the way. Like Mount St. Helens, I'm always changing and growing.

Above: Glissading down Mount St. Helens was a blast!