Terrorist attacks inspired fallen soldier to enlist

September 6, 2011

Staff Sgt. Robert J. Wilson, a daredevil teenager from the Sunshine State, matured into a determined soldier in sun-scorched Iraq.

Robert J. Wilson

The boy in Florida sometimes jumped into a swimming pool from perilous heights or needed stitches to repair damage from a mistimed stunt.

The terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, led Wilson to abandon a rambunctious youth and focus on a military career.

The infantryman in Iraq often served on point, as the lead soldier in a formation, during foot patrols. Other soldiers in his unit had spouses and children at home. Wilson, unmarried and childless, chose the most-exposed position to shield other soldiers from harm.

“Even though he was my younger brother, he was usually more mature than me — for the most part,” said Darlene Weigle, Wilson’s older sister and a Mirrormont resident. “Sometimes, he was still my annoying little brother.”

The attacks on 9/11 led to a decadelong odyssey in Afghanistan and Iraq. The wars have claimed more than 6,000 U.S. service members — a grim milestone in a decade defined by catastrophe and conflict.

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Voters overwhelmingly renew Veterans and Human Services Levy

August 23, 2011

The popular Veterans and Human Services Levy garnered overwhelming support from King County voters Aug. 16, as the electorate renewed the measure through 2017.

The levy is expected to generate about $100 million for programs to aid veterans and needy residents. The funding is split 50-50 between veterans programs and human services efforts.

“The citizens of King County have demonstrated their respect for our veterans and compassion for our neighbors most in need by voting to renew the Veterans and Human Services Levy,” County Executive Dow Constantine, a levy supporter, said in a statement late Aug. 16.

“I thank the voters for approving the levy and showing, once again, that King County is an extraordinary community in which to live.”

The measure, Proposition 1, garnered more than 60 percent of the vote in the initial results King County Elections released last week. The elections office is due to certify the results Aug. 31.

The measure garnered broad support from human services organizations and advocates for veterans. The county Voters’ Guide, in fact, did not include any statements opposing Proposition 1. Even the County Council put the measure on the ballot in a unanimous decision.

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King County considers creating treatment court for veterans

August 23, 2011

King County leaders could create a treatment court to offer military veterans treatment and support services for mental illnesses — a concern as service members return from Afghanistan and Iraq suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injuries.

Under a proposal developed by County Executive Dow Constantine, County Councilman Bob Ferguson and King County District Court, a Veterans Treatment Court could debut as a yearlong pilot project to offer special court services to former service members.

The proposal calls for using resources from the existing Mental Health Court to create the pilot project. If a Veterans Treatment Court pilot is carved from Mental Health Court, the cost to the county could be nothing.

The county courthouse in Issaquah, as a site for Mental Health Court, could also host Veterans Treatment Court. If the County Council approves the proposal, a Veterans Treatment Court pilot could start as soon as January.

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King County considers creating treatment court for veterans

August 16, 2011

NEW — 1 p.m. Aug. 16, 2011

King County leaders could create a treatment court to offer military veterans treatment and support services for mental illnesses — a concern as service members return from Afghanistan and Iraq suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injuries.

Under a proposal developed by County Executive Dow Constantine, County Councilman Bob Ferguson and King County District Court, a Veterans Treatment Court could debut as a yearlong pilot project to offer special court services to former service members.

The proposal calls for using resources from the existing Mental Health Court to create the pilot project. If a Veterans Treatment Court pilot is carved from Mental Health Court, the cost to the county could be nothing.

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Voters to decide King County veterans-and-human-services levy

August 9, 2011

Measure funds Issaquah programs for teenagers, parents

King County voters decide the future of a county veterans-and-human-services levy soon, and as Election Day nears, recipients of levy dollars demonstrated how the measure impacts Issaquah and other communities.

The electorate approved the initial veterans-and-human-services levy — 5 cents per $1,000 of assessed value — to fund programs for veterans and social service efforts in 2005. The measure, Proposition 1, is up for renewal on the Aug. 16 ballot.

If passed, the levy renewal is projected to generate $100 million through 2017. The funding is split 50-50 among programs for veterans and the neediest residents in King County.

Proposition 1 matches the existing levy and does not include additional taxes. The owner of a home assessed at $340,000 is expected to pay $17 in 2012 if the levy is renewed. (The existing levy is due to expire Dec. 31.)

Proposition 1 receives broad support from human services organizations and advocates for veterans. The measure received unanimous support on the often-contentious council. The county Voters’ Guide does not include any statements against Proposition 1.

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Off the Press

July 26, 2011

Remember veterans of Korea, a forgotten war

A friend of the family once told a story about his Korean War days. It seems that he and his U.S. Army infantry platoon were ordered to liberate a sake brewery.

Bob Taylor Press sports editor

They took the brewery without firing a shot because the building was vacant. Inside the brewery were numerous barrels of sake. Since the orders were to liberate the brewery, well, our friend and his platoon followed orders. After all, a soldier’s duty is to follow orders.

For the next week or so, the platoon went on a big bender until the sake was totally liberated. I have a hunch these fellows probably had one massive hangover because undiluted sake is 18 to 20 percent alcohol.

His commanding officer was not pleased, and our friend, who was a sergeant at the time, received a demotion in rank. However, our friend believed by spending time in the sake brewery he kept some young men out of harm’s way for a few precious days.

Other than this one experience, our friend does not talk that much about his Korean War days.

Overall, I do not think he found it as amusing as some of the episodes of the long-running TV series “M*A*S*H.” Much like my friends who served in Vietnam and local vets I have met from World War II, war is still a painful memory.

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Outdoor Channel honors Liberty High School graduate wounded in Iraq

July 20, 2011

NEW — 2 p.m. July 20, 2011

Retired U.S. Army Spc. Rory Dunn, a 2000 Liberty High School graduate, survived devastating injuries caused by a roadside bomb in Iraq.

Now, as a display of gratitude for Dunn’s sacrifice, the Outdoor Channel whisked the former soldier deep into the heart of Texas for a whitetail deer hunt. Crews filmed the expedition for “Grateful Nation” — a show about disabled veterans on a hunt alongside host Tim Abell, a former Army Airborne Ranger.

Dunn’s episode is scheduled to air at 1:30 p.m. Thursday and 4:30 p.m. July 24 on the Outdoor Channel, channel 406 on Comcast.

In the episode, Dunn returns to South Texas and the Catarosa Ranch in the famed “Golden Triangle” of big game hunting.

Dunn also made a surprise appearance on “Grateful Nation” last year to reunite with a combat buddy.

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Outdoors for All offers opportunities for disabled adventurers

July 2, 2011

Outdoors for All participant Laszlo Jajczay paddles with two volunteers at Green Lake Park in Seattle. The nonprofit organization invites volunteers to help participants throughout the summer. By Ed Bronsdon

The world of Susan Camicia, an avid Issaquah bicyclist and skier, turned upside down on June 19, 2006.

She had registered for a triathlon and was cycling on Mercer Island during a training session. As she neared the Mercer Island Park & Ride, some fence work threw her off guard and she ran into a pole, toppled over the handlebars of her bike and broke her neck.

In an instant, Camicia essentially became a quadriplegic, except for limited use of her hands.

“People always think that they work, but I have no strength in them at all,” she said. “If someone hands me a cup of coffee, it’s going to fall on the ground.”

She has learned to use both hands when picking up a cup of joe at her favorite coffee cafes. With such limited mobility, she worried that a sedentary life would be her default fate, until her recreational therapist recommended she try the Outdoors for All Foundation.

“It’s a great organization,” she said. “It has great volunteers.”

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State encourages hiring preferences for veterans

May 24, 2011

Issaquah attorney, lawmaker team up for groundbreaking legislation

Ted Wicorek (from right), J.W. Johnson, Booker Stallworth, Mike Gregoire, Gov. Chris Gregoire, Jim Robinson, Marjorie James, Rep. Jay Rodne, Sen. Jeff Baxter, David Black Jr. and Tom Hinman at the Wednesday signing ceremony. Contributed

David Black, a respected employment attorney and Issaquah resident, remembers the challenges his father, a Vietnam War veteran, faced after returning to the civilian workforce.

“He had a really hard time getting employment when I was growing up,” he said. “I remember him having three or four part-time jobs trying to piece something together, trying to make things work.”

Black stood alongside Gov. Chris Gregoire, state legislators and advocates late last month as the governor signed a first-in-the-nation measure to encourage private employers in Washington to hire veterans.

The legislation Black crafted and helped to pass enables private employers to voluntarily give preference to hiring veterans, or veterans’ widows and widowers.

Because the measure encourages, rather than requires, private employers to give preference to hiring veterans, the legislation does not run afoul of state or federal antidiscrimination laws. State law also prohibits employers from discriminating against job applicants due to military status.

“The way to encourage positive employment regulation that has a social origin or a social benefit as well is to make it permissive and to encourage it,” Black said.

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Woman shoots self during Issaquah traffic stop

May 24, 2011

State troopers said a driver shot and killed herself early May 17 during a traffic stop in Issaquah.

The trooper had stopped a vehicle along Interstate 90 when he heard a popping noise and discovered the woman inside the vehicle had suffered a gunshot wound.

He then called for medical assistance. Eastside Fire & Rescue medics declared the woman dead at the scene.

The incident occurred at about 2:30 a.m. on the eastbound interstate near the Front Street North exit. The woman had been alone in the Saturn coupe.

Officials later identified her as a 23-year-old Bothell woman and a veteran of the Iraq war.

Concerned family members had alerted the state patrol about the woman.

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