Latest from The Spokesman-Review
OLYMPIA — This will likely be a short day around the Capitol as some legislators like to leave early to be home for the weekend and committees don't schedule late hearings.
The light agenda in both chambers includes resolutions honoring the state's National Guard, and members of the various Army and Air National Guard units are on duty in the halls of the Capitol, some in dress uniforms and some in camo.
Meanwhile, gun owners from around the state are holding a rally at the Tivoli Fountain on the Capitol Campus, and many came armed for the “2nd Amendment Right Rally”. The guns are visible, and thus legal, under the state's open-carry law, but the Department of Enterprise Services which manages the building and grounds sent out a memo earlier in the week, mentioning the rally in an attempt to allay any concerns about armed protesters.
Legislators needn't feel out-gunned, however. The National Guard has some examples of its weaponry on display in the hallway.
The U.S. Department of Justice has filed a lawsuit against the Jerome County Sheriff’s office, saying it violated the employment rights of an Army National Guard member. Mervin Jones, a corporal for the sheriff’s office, suffered a knee injury while deployed to Iraq in 2004, and later aggravated it during Guard training in 2008. The sheriff’s department is accused of refusing to accommodate him as he recovered from knee injuries in 2009, and then firing him.
“Members of the Army National Guard sacrifice time away from their jobs to serve their country,” said U.S. Attorney for Idaho Wendy Olson. “USERRA (the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994) ensures that they are not discriminated against after they have returned and their employment rights are protected. We are committed to vigorously enforcing USERRA’s protections.” You can read the U.S. Attorney’s full announcement here.
A Mexican soldier walks near a U.S.-Mexico border crossing in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration will keep a reduced contingent of National Guard troops working along the Mexican border for the next year, the Defense Department said today.
Starting in January, the force of 1,200 National Guard troops at the border will be reduced to fewer than 300 at a cost of about $60 million, said Paul Stockton, assistant secretary of defense for homeland defense.
The remaining troops will shift their focus from patrolling the border on the ground looking for illegal immigrants and smugglers to aerial surveillance missions using military helicopters and airplanes equipped with high-tech radar and other gear. Exactly where those troops will fly or how many aircraft will be used has not been decided, he said. More here.
Troop reduction at the border: good idea or bad idea?
On her Facebook wall, Post Falls Councilwoman Kerri Thoreson writes (and provides photos) of the reception of the National Guardsman returning from Iraq to the Post Falls Armory last night. The last 30 Guardsmen in two buses were snagged behind a large pileup on I-90 near Ellensburg, Wash. Writes Kerri: “After waiting on pins and needles all afternoon for the busses carrying the last of the 116th finally home, I got the call that they were about 30 minutes out. I headed onto I-90 for the National Guard Armory and had to pull off to catch my breath. The sight of the ladder truck, firefighters and a flag draped over the Idaho Street overpass brought tears to my eyes.” And: “There were over three dozen citizens lining Seltice in front of the armory holding large flags and more than 100 family and friends with flags and signs lining the parking lot.” Among those returning were KCFR Division Chief Dan Ryan and Kerri's nephe, Dallas Rankin Scharf. More photos here.
The future is helping Staff Sgt. Jason Rzepa get through the wounds of war. Rzepa (pronounced Zeppa) had both of his legs amputated below the knee due to injuries sustained during a roadside bomb attack in Baghdad last month. “I can't get down about it,” the Coeur d'Alene 30-year-old said on Thursday from Brooke Army Medical Center (BAMC) at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, in the San Antonio area. “I've got a family and two kids and a future planned out. I can't let this get in the way. I'm lucky I'm alive”/Brian Walker, CdA Press. More here.
Question: Are you as amazed as I am re: the bravery of this soldier?
Law enforcement in Spokane and North Idaho will join the U.S. military in processions today to deliver to funeral homes the remains of two Coeur d’Alene soldiers killed in Iraq. A procession today around 11:30 a.m. will escort the remains of Sgt. Nathan R. Beyers, right, from Spokane International Airport to Hennessey-Smith Funeral Home on North Division Street in Spokane. Another around 1:15 p.m. will escort the remains of Army Spc. Nicholas W. Newby, left, from the Coeur d’Alene Airport/Pappy Boyington Field to Yates Funeral Home on Fourth Street in Coeur d’Alene. The Coeur d’Alene procession will pass Lake City High School, Newby’s alma mater, which his family has suggested would be a good place for community members to gather if they wish to pay respects/Alison Boggs, SR. More here.
Question: How do you plan to honor the memory of these two brave Coeur d'Alene soldiers who died in an IED attack in Iraq — and a third soldier who was badly injured?
Memorial services for two Coeur d’Alene soldiers recently killed in Iraq will take place this weekend. The public is invited to attend a memorial service held by the Idaho Army National Guard for Sgt. Nathan R. Beyers and Spc. Nicholas W. Newby at 1 p.m. Saturday at the Lake City Community Church, 6000 N. Ramsey Road in Coeur d’Alene. A Sunday rosary vigil service will be held for Beyers at 4 p.m. Sunday at the Hennessey Smith Funeral Home, 2203 N. Division St. in Spokane. Funeral mass will be at 10 a.m. on Monday at St. Aloysius Catholic Church, 330 E. Boone Ave., in Spokane. Interment will take place at 10:30 a.m. on Tuesday at the Washington State Veterans Cemetery at 21702 W. Espanola Road in Medical Lake. Newby’s funeral, also open to the public, will be held at 4 p.m. Monday at the Lake City Community Church/Chelsea Bannach, SR. More here.
From Kerri Thoreson's Facebook wall: “Latest information on funeral services for Spc. Nick Newby, left, of the Idaho Army National Guard, 116th: Military plane carrying the casket of soldier Newby will arrive at Pappy Boyington Field at the Coeur d'Alene Airport at 1 p.m. on Friday. Paying their respects at the airport will be Governor Otter and the First Lady. A procession of local law enforcement vehicles and Patriot Guard Riders will accompany the hearse and family from the airport to Yates Funeral Home. Funeral services are set for Monday at 1600 hrs at Lake City Community Church in Coeur d'Alene.”
- And: Read Kerri's tribute to the two fallen Coeur d'Alene soldiers and the badly injured 3rd one here.
And: Also: Cards or notes of condolences can be mailed to the families of each c/o Idaho Army National Guard, E. 5453 Seltice Way, Post Falls, Idaho 83854.
Item: Local soldier recovering: Memorial services for Spc. Nathan R. Beyers, Spc. Nicholas W. Newby are pending/Brian Walker, Coeur d'Alene Press
More Info: A local soldier injured in Iraq last week is recovering and was headed back to the United States on Tuesday, according to the Idaho National Guard. Staff Sgt. Jason Rzepa of the 145th Brigade Support Battalion, 116th Cavalry Heavy Brigade Combat Team based in Post Falls suffered serious injuries to both legs during a roadside bomb attack in Baghdad on Thursday. “I'm told that he's in good spirits and handling this situation very well,” said Col. Tim Marsano, the Guard's spokesman.
Also: Cards or notes of condolences can be mailed to the families of each c/o Idaho Army National Guard, E. 5453 Seltice Way, Post Falls, Idaho 83854.
Companies in Cheney, Spokane and Spokane Valley were nominated today for an award that recognizes private and public organizations for exceptional support for Washington Guard and Reserve members.
The local nominees announced are Haakon Industries of Cheney, Dorosh Dental and Spokane Emergency Physicians of Spokane, and Spalding Auto Parts and Western Systems & Fabrication Inc. of Spokane Valley.
They are among 90 employers nominated statewide for the 2011 Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Reward.
Nominees have supported Guard and Reserve members by providing continued benefits, differential pay and family assistance.
Winners will be announced this summer, and receive their award at a Sept. 22 ceremony in Washington, D.C.
“In this week’s Main Street column HERE,” posts Kerri Thoreson/More Main Street, “there’s mention of the annual Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve BOSS Lift. Cyndie Hammond, Regional Director of Lewis-Clark State College, was one of the civilians who took part in the event at Gowen Field’s Idaho Army National Guard Joint Command Base in Boise last week.”
Question: Do the women in your life know how to use a gun?
President Barack Obama will send 1,200 National Guard troops to boost security along the U.S.-Mexico border, officials said Tuesday, pre-empting Republican plans to try to force votes on such a deployment. Obama will also request $500 million for border protection and law enforcement activities, according to lawmakers and administration officials. The moves come as chances for action on comprehensive immigration reform, Obama’s long-stated goal, look increasingly small in this election year. But Obama is under pressure to do something with the issue front and center after Arizona’s passage of a tough crackdown law/Associated Press. More here.
Question: Do you support this action by President Obama?