Lesson Learned

Photo by: AJ Chavar

In just the past four weeks, I’ve learned how to safely maneuver my way through dirt roads, gather a herd of horses, and live in a house with nine other people.  This week the daily lessons continued.

A fork in the woods


There is a fork in a dirt road near Lost Lake on the way to Chesaw. Both paths lead to secluded Vietnam vets with decided opinions about their service and the current state of the nation.

The solace of silence

Photo by: Ken Harper

It's the space, the lack of humanity per square inch. I can see why people choose to disconnect to reconnect. I get it. Quiet beauty seems to be oppressed under the buzz of the multitudes. We don't have multitudes here. 

In the back of my mind I dream of the end of rushing, the moss growing on my laptop, maybe tomorrow.

Goin' up!

Pilot Justin Smith, of Republic, Washington. Photo by David Miller

One central character in our stories--the land-- has been fairly inconspicuous over the last few weeks in our posts. We're all focusing so much of our attention on veterans, their families, outreach workers, and the people in the community that it might not seem as though the land is so critical to our story. But it is. It's why these people are here, and it's why we're here. 

How we got here

Photo by: David Miller

Long before our News21 team met our friendly neighborhood herd of goats, won the Curlew Barrel Derby three-on-three championship or commenced our twice-weekly trips to the Walmart in Omak, our only connection to the veterans in eastern Washington was on the telephone with Rick Francis of the Blackdog Foundation. It’s through him and the outreach work he does that we came to this particular corner of the world.

All in the family

Justin tries to save the saintly cat. Photo by: Juliette Lynch

It was, by all accounts, a fairly normal night for Joanna and her brood of brawling boys.

The other side of the woods

Ed Bush, a Vietnam vet, talks to Justin. Photo by: Juliette Lynch

One of the big draws that brought the Syracuse News21 team to northeastern Washington was the promise of rugged mountain veterans living miles from the nearest patch of pavement, their hand-hewn property surrounded by forbidding signage. After three weeks in the area, though, we were hardly closer to verifying the existence of any quasi-mythological recluses, much less meeting them.

Now we know. They exist.

Veterans' Story Day

Percy Faison | Portrait by: AJ Chavar

Families serving in the military

Joanne counts the number of her husband's deployments. Photo by: Juliette Lynch

As part of our continuing quest to win this summer's News21 Rental Car Mileage Derby, Juliette and I made the 124-mile trip to Spokane today to meet with Joanna, who is married to an active duty tech sergeant (military cop) on Fairchild Air Force Base.

We heard about Joanna through her grandmother at a pancake breakfast in Republic. She is a 32-year-old mother of four and has been married to her husband, Nick, for eight years. In that time, he's been deployed five times to Iraq and the United Arab Emirates; he was also deployed a few times before they met.

Syndicate content