Opinion

Letters to the editor

Veterans

During World War II, which service lost the greatest percentage of personnel in combat? It was not the Army, the Marines or the Navy. It was the brave men of the American Merchant Marine. The price they paid was that every 26th man gave his life for the country. Over 1,500 ships were sunk, with one in eight mariners losing their ship. No other branch of the Armed Services can match that number. The United States Merchant Marine Academy cadets were the only federal academy men who were put in harm’s way and lost lives. After the war, every branch of the Armed Services received the G.I. Bill — that is, except the U.S. Merchant Marine.

Why is it that on Memorial Day, the Merchant Marine will most likely not even be mentioned in honoring the lives of the Armed Forces? Something is wrong with our value system.

G.I. Bill

A reader/writer in the May 21 issue criticized Congressman Dave Reichert for voting against the 2008 G.I. Bill. Many readers may not be aware that members of Congress may vote against bills for many reasons, e.g., only voters against may bring up the bill again for reconsideration, and many times bills have offensive or screwball riders, amendments or currently infamous “earmarks” fatally tacked on at late-night, last-minute sessions. Initial “no” votes can be misleading.

Rep. Reichert is a United States Air Force veteran. This retired Air Force veteran recently asked for Reichert and his staff’s help on a mixed-up and confused veterans’ medical benefits reimbursement claim. It was sincere and aggressive, with close status updates from staffers Lincoln Vander Veen and Tom Young; they smoked out the first responsive government information given in six months to my bureaucratic windmill tilting.

I would respectfully submit fundamental fairness suggests that Rep. Reichert be given response space in the Reporter.

Attack on Reichert

is amusing

I read with interest and some amusement Mr. Randy Winn’s attack on Representative Reichert for his perceived “lack of support” of our military veterans. Mr. Winn is probably not aware that Representative Reichert has conceived, sponsored and appeared at Veterans Fairs throughout his district to support military veterans of all services.

Dozens of Veteran Support Agencies at all government levels and private military support organizations have been represented at the fairs for the purpose of informing veterans of their rights and benefits. Hundreds of veterans have attended and benefited from Representative Reichert’s unique initiative. All have had the opportunity to speak personally with Representative Reichert.

Mr. Winn’s charge that Representative Reichert’s “no” vote on the G.I. Bill demonstrates a lack of support for veterans is influenced by Mr. Winn’s lack of knowledge of Washington, D.C., politics. Representative Reichert is on the record in Congress as a strong supporter of G.I. Bill benefits. However, he recognizes — as do most informed people — that the bill passed in the House of Representatives has no “legs” in the Senate and that what is really needed is a bill that is more broadly supported to materially enhance the educational benefits that our veterans so richly deserve. For the record, Reichert is well known in military circles for his exceptional initiative in supporting our veterans.

Drinking and driving

The Mercer Island police and fire departments conducted their biannual DUI drill on May 5 at Mercer Island High School. The presentation served as a reminder to students, in the week preceding prom, of the incompatibility of drinking and driving.

The drill attempted to send a powerful message that drinking and driving can have very real consequences. While the wrecked cars, screaming victims and smoke certainly furthered this effort, the message was belied by the presence of Officer DeChant. It was immediately noticed by members of the audience that one of the police officers responding to the staged accident was, in fact, the very same man who had been arrested for DUI after rear-ending another vehicle with an [Eastside Narcotics Task force] police vehicle following a law enforcement holiday party. Officer DeChant’s presence at the high school sent the unmistakable message that DUI isn’t a big deal. The credibility of the drill was irrevocably harmed by Officer DeChant’s participation.

Of far greater importance, however, is DeChant’s retention by the MIPD. It seems to me that if you drive hammered, you ought to get nailed — and that includes losing your badge. Wearing blue and having a King County Prosecutor attempt to act as your attorney, as one did until he was reminded that his office was charged with prosecuting the DUI, should not insulate you from the ramifications of drunk driving. Law enforcement officers ought to be held to a higher standard than those whom they police. So, while I respect the MIPD, I’m going to have to agree with Benton County Sheriff Larry Taylor on this one: “If [police officers] were drunk, and they were driving a patrol car, they would be fired. That tears at the credibility of the entire department” (Seattle PI).

Deepest gratitude

to the MICF

On behalf of IslandVision, I would like to send our deepest gratitude to the Mercer Island Community Fund and the Islanders who contribute to it. This year, the MICF provided us with grant money to partner with the City of Mercer Island and Mercer Island Visual Arts League in putting on the “Leap for Green” sustainability fair on April 19 and starting an Island Farmer’s Market, the pilot of which will begin on Aug. 10 and run for 10 weeks through October.

For anyone who attended the fair, you know how successful it was. Roger Page, the owner of Island Books, said afterward, “Congratulations on the most vibrant and successful community event I have ever attended on Mercer Island.” IslandVision’s mission is to provide positive Islandwide projects such as these that reinforce our sense of community and build understanding about sustainable lifestyles for all generations. We hope “Leap for Green” will become an event that parents and children alike anticipate as Earth Day comes around each year. Without the support of the Mercer Island Community Fund, we wouldn’t have been able to get the ball rolling.

Again, thank you to the MICF and to all who support it. It is a truly valuable asset for our community.

Pioneer Park

Thanks to Rita Moore and fellow members of the Open Space Conservancy Trust for opposing the cutting of trees in Pioneer Park in order to provide room for more power lines. I am so glad that we have group of citizens who are watch dogs for Pioneer Park. As a south end resident, I am willing to cope with another power outage to save our trees which are irreplaceable. A week without power was a wake up call for us to stack up on firewood, get battery powered lamps and a portable butane camp stove. That’s not much to save a beautiful part of the park! At least we have not had any recent proposals to turn the park into a golf course! This has happened in the past.

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