Small town graduation

Tonasket High School 2010 graduation Photo by: Sherri Williams

Yesterday I attended the Tonasket High School graduation with my News 21 fellows Michelle San Miguel and Kelly West. Both were gathering stills and video for a story about a high school student who is about to enter the military while the country is engaged in two wars.

In this area where there are many small towns people share a lot, including milestones in one another's lives.

So here graduation is a public event. It seemed as if the entire town came out to congratulate the students.

The K Diamond K Story

Steve Konz, on lunch break in Cle Elum, Wash. Photo by: Steve Davis

It was good to connect with my old friend I-90 again this past week for a short 322-mile trip over to Tacoma from Republic. (Three of us from SU drove out here from Syracuse two weeks ago, and the 2,500-mile journey has changed my perspective on words such as "short" and "long". My travel partners to Tacoma were K Diamond K patriarch Steve Konz and the ranch wrangler, Shelby Carradine. Our destination: Romancing the Spouse, an event in Tacoma for Ft. Lewis soldiers and families.

Families go to war too

Photo by Kelly West

Today my partner Kelly West and I met Charlene Payton Holt, the wife of a Vietnam War veteran. She affirmed a lot of things Danna Hughes, of the Vietnam Veterans Wives, told us earlier in the week.

Women need just as much help as their husbands to cope with the fallout of war. Holt, a retired art educator, said counseling is key for the entire veteran's family to heal.
"We all need counseling in this life," she said. "It is sacred. It's your spirit's medicine."

PTSD & families

Photo by Kelly West

Danna Hughes' husband came home from the Vietnam War. But he fought a mental battle years later and wrestled with what he saw there.

He suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, and eventually she did too.

Untreated PTSD in veterans becomes an infection that plagues military families, Hughes told a group of News 21 fellows today when we visited her at her Vietnam Veterans' Wives office.

"She becomes like him. The children become like him. It's a vicious cycle. The only way it can be helped is with good counseling," she said.

Women vets' needs unaddressed

Photo by Kelly West

Dale White transformed a table at the Lone Star Cafe in Tonasket into his mobile office.

Under a photo of Elvis Presley and pictures of 1950s Chevys, he sat at a restaurant table today with a laptop and a stack of notebooks.

A chair, with a pile of folders, served as a makeshift file cabinet.

While others ate breakfast and had coffee, White reviewed veterans' paper work and worked on their claims to get them health care and financial help.

Local help coming soon

Photo by: Steve Davis

Ron O'Halloran, who runs the Ferry County Hospital here in Republic, is all set to help the veterans in this community ... as soon as he's finished reviewing the 157-page contract the VA's sent him for signature.

He plopped it on the table between us this afternoon when I asked how long it would be before the facility would be certified to help the vets who live here. That would be a huge benefit; they wouldn't have to drive the 120 winding, up-and-down miles south to Spokane to see a doctor or counselor.

Women veterans overlooked

As an Army nurse during the Vietnam War Karen Schimpf tended to soldiers whose bodies were blasted on the battlefield.

She arrived in Saigon as "an immortal 22-year-old" she said. But that wasn't the way she left.

When Schimpf came home the war was unpopular and those who participated in it were not celebrated heroes.

Women's contributions went unnoticed, she said yesterday when my partner Kelly West and I talked to her at her home in Tonasket, Washington.

"We came home by ourselves," Schimpf said.

Being overlooked, she said, still stings a little.

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