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Archives: Aug. 2008


Short turnaround for Olympia resident

Hunter Ellis joined the Washington National Guard last September. The 19-year-old Olympia resident felt the call of service – his family has a history in the military – and graduated from basic training on July 31.

Still, he wasn’t certain if he would be able to join the 81st Brigade in time for its deployment – until Monday.

"Yesterday was the first day with my unit," he said. "And I’m excited. I want to go and do my job. It’s what I was trained to do."


A relaxed atmosphere

Col. Ronald Kapral sat at the wooden picnic table and flipped through white index cards. The man who will lead the 81st Brigade into war was minutes away from addressing more than 700 soldiers at Auburn’s Game Farm Park, and he was trying at the last minute to nail his speech.

"I don’t even know why I write all this down," he said. "I usually just get up there and ad-lib it."

That might be more appropriate for the ceremony, which seems relaxed by military standards. Families and soldiers are milling about the park, taking cover from the

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Politicians turn out for farewell ceremony

Terry Harder and Steven Cook took some time off the campaign trail to welcome visitors to today’s farewell ceremony in Auburn.

The Republicans are running for seats in the state House of Representatives out of the 29th District. But on Tuesday afternoon, they stood at the entrance to Game Farm Park and held American flags.

"We want to let them know that the public does care about them," Harder said. "We want them to know that their families and the public support them. And that’s more important than campaigning today."


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81st has farewell parties galore

Tuesday is the big send-off party — or shall we say, parties — for some 2,500 Washington National Guardsmen who are headed to Wisconsin for a month or so. Then it’s off to Kuwait and finally Iraq as fully trained members of the 81st Brigade Combat Team.

The biggest farewell will be in honor of the hundreds of citizen-soldiers who normally report to the Kent Armory. We expect the largest contingent of dignitaries there. It’s set for 2 p.m. at Game Farm Park in Auburn, 3030 R St. SE.

Hard to shut the public out of a public

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Before They Go series

Thanks to all the nice people from the 81st Brigade Combat Team who offered to share their lives with us over this 10 days that they have together before they ship out for Fort McCoy. After that they go to Iraq.

So far we’ve featured Maj. Todd and Debbie Bonham of Tacoma, who are enjoying a Caribbean cruise before he heads back for his second Iraq tour with the 81st. He was a Marine for five years and an active-duty artillery officer in the Army before joining the Washington National Guard right after Sept. 11. He is an

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McChord flight medics to deploy

Flight medics from the 446th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron this week begin a sequence of three, six-month deployments to Germany and Iraq, the Air Force Reserve wing at McChord announced Monday.

The wing said 54 flight nurses, doctors and support personnel will be deployed at some point over the next year – about a third of the squadron. They’ll go in one of three six-month shifts, the first of which leaves this week, the wing said.

Some will be making their fifth deployment since the military operations that began after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in 2001.


Former 3rd Brigade Stryker dies of leukemia

Staff Sgt. Matt Bumpus, who served on the 3rd Brigade’s first Iraq tour with the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment, passed away Sunday after a two-year battle with acute myleogenous leukemia. He was 31, and leaves behind a wife and two young sons in Roseville, Calif.

Bumpus believed his cancer was likely the result of chemical or radiation exposures while he served in Iraq. The Veterans Administration denied his claim.

Memorial donations can be sent to Lisa Bumpus at 1000 Sunrise Ave., Suite 9B, Box 411, Roseville, CA 95661.


The Long Haul

Sharon Cohen of The Associated Press has done a terrific job getting inside and telling the personal stories of the Minnesota National Guard soldiers of the 1st Brigade, 34th Infantry Division.

The brigade spent 22 months on active duty – 16 of them in Iraq, longer than any other unit.

We’re running her seven-part series, The Long Haul, although with all the items competing for your attention on our home page you might have missed it.