Les and the land

[none]"Nobody looks down at your nose at you. People are people up here."
Les Godfrey
Vietnam Veteran


Occasionally, a few of the News21 fellows have posed the question, “Why are we here.”

It’s an important question and a good one to keep in mind as we frame our project. After all, Republic, Washington is more than 2,500 miles away from home.

Veterans are everywhere in this country.  We met with one Vietnam vet who asked us, “Couldn’t you find veterans on the East Coast?”

Undoubtedly, we could have.  I think we’re here because of people like Les Godfrey. He’s a marine, a two-tour Vietnam veteran.  Godfrey couldn’t imagine living anywhere else at this point in his life. A big city is out of the question. Too much hustle, too much noise.

As Godfrey stands on his back porch, humming birds flail back and forth, sipping from a fountain filled with red sugar-water.  Three deer lounge in his backyard, as if they share the land with him. When it storms, Godfrey likes to watch the lightning crash against the mountains in the distance.   The beauty of this place, Godfrey says, is God’s work.

“If you can, you have to take a day off and just enjoy the beauty,” Godfrey said. “There’s nothing like it.”

Godfrey came here for his own reasons.  He loves the land. He loves small towns and the camaraderie that comes with walking down the street and spotting a familiar face. 

Others have different reasons. Some hide in the woods. They cope in isolation with the things they saw at war. Some use the military to leave this place and get a college degree. Some struggle to get out or make sense of why they’re still here.  Some, like Les Godfrey, live for the beauty. 

We’re finding dozens of vets who live here. It has been fascinating to discover their relationships with the land and the community at large. This project, in my view, is that story. 

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