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Support for troops marches on

The city of Tualatin joins the local VFW in adopting one unit that has been mobilized for war

By Janie Nafsinger

TUALATIN — They send care packages filled with toothbrushes and toilet paper, make “ditty bags” for military hospital patients and offer tax-preparation help to military families.

They’re local residents – many of them members of Tualatin Post 3452 of the Veterans of Foreign Wars – who have pitched in to support the servicemen and women serving their country during the war with Iraq. And now the city of Tualatin is joining their ranks.

The Tualatin City Council on Monday, March 24, agreed to join the Tualatin VFW in adopting the 671st Engineer Company, a U.S. Army Reserve unit that has been deployed to the Middle East. The adoption’s purpose is to generate local support from Tualatin citizens for troops in the 671st and their families.

This isn’t about whether people favor or oppose the war, VFW Commander Dale Potts told council members. “This is not a political statement. It is a simple issue – no matter what a person feels about our war with Iraq, it is important that we support our citizen-soldiers who are serving their country, and their families back here at home,” Potts said.

More Oregonians have been mobilized than at any other time since World War II, Potts noted, “and more still are poised yet to go.”

The 671st, which lists two Tualatin residents among its 187 members, is one of three military units that the Tualatin VFW and the Oregon Trail Chapter of the Korean War Veterans Association have adopted. One reason they chose the 671st was because it likely will be involved in a lengthy mobilization period in helping to rebuild Iraq’s infrastructure, Potts said.

The Tualatin City Council can take on a “cheerleader” role to encourage community organizations and individuals to get involved in support U.S. troops in general and the 671st in particular, VFW representatives said.

“You can help get the word out,” VFW member and hall manager Ron Anderson told councilors.

Anderson, also a member of the Korean War Veterans Association, showed examples of the “ditty bags” that VFW Auxiliary member Evelyn Turner is sewing. The bags will be shipped to Landstuhl Army Regional Medical Center in Germany, where wounded U.S. troops are sent from field hospitals in the Middle East.

The bags will allow hospitalized soldiers who are using crutches or wheelchairs to carry personal items such as paperback books or shaving kits, Anderson explained. Troops also welcome personal-care items, he added. “The troops in the desert have been on the move for quite a while now, and things aren’t available to them – Chapstick, sunblock, toothpaste and toothbrushes,” he said.

In places lacking water, the troops use unscented baby wipes for personal hygiene, Anderson added. click here for information on how and what to send.

Tualatin resident Norb Murray, a retired Marine officer, VFW member and Rotary Club member, is coordinating troop-support activity among community business leaders. Murray is available to help military families find a dentist, attorney, builder or CPA – “whatever we can help with,” he said.

The Tualatin VFW post already has provided income tax help – it hosted a free tax-preparation day March 15 at Patriot Hall, the VFW post home on Seneca Street. click here

Potts expressed hope that Tualatin’s involvement in supporting troops will spur other communities to follow suit.

More information about the Tualatin VFW is found on the post’s Web site,

Dale Potts’ Speech before the City Council

Mayor Lou Ogden, Tualatin City Council members and city staff members, and fellow Tualatin Citizens.

We appreciate your putting us on today’s agenda for the Council.

Those of you who attend Chamber of Commerce events have heard me ask, “Support our Troops”. This is not a political statement. It is a simple issue – no matter what a person feels about our war with Iraq, it is important that we support our citizen-soldiers who are serving our country, and their families back here at home. As you know, more Oregonians have been mobilized during any time since World War II and more still are poised yet to go.

Tualatin’s Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3452 and the Oregon Trail Chapter of the Korean War Veteran’s Association have jointly adopted three activated Oregon military units. I am here tonight to ask the City of Tualatin to adopt one of these – The Army Reserve 671st Engineer Company which lists two Tualatin residents among its 187 deployed members and also has several members from surrounding communities. One of the reasons this unit was selected was because it is likely to be involved in a lengthy mobilization period in helping rebuild Iraq’s infrastructure.

It is our intention for the City Council to initiate leadership – much like a cheerleader role — to encourage community organizations and individuals to get actively involved in supporting our troops in general and this unit in particular. Our VFW post and the KWVA will work directly with those who are interested.

Most people assume that the govt takes care of our military member’s personal needs while in service of our country. As you have seen in the list that was emailed to you, there are a lot of personal care items that are not provided. And some that are, are not adequate. For example, those involved in Desert Storm found that sand sticks to the govt-issue sunscreen, making life very unpleasant in the desert.

Some very simple items are highly appreciated.

Richard, and Ron – would you share with the council members the ditty bags being prepared by the auxiliary for the troops and give each of them a bumper sticker for their personal use. We do want the ditty bags back for the troops. The ditty bags are invaluable for storing personal items, especially if hospitalized. You are encouraged to keep and use the bumper stickers. We will also provide them to everyone here in the room as our supply allows.

Space is a premium for combat support troops. All they take with them is what they can put into a 60 lb pack and, what in the navy; we call a sea bag – in addition to a rifle, sleeping bag, gas mask and biological warfare protective clothing. There is no room for perishable items or extra’s. Edible items like cookies and trail mix are highly appreciated.

And even more important is taking care of families back home. Many of you saw the Oregonian article today about Donna Gratton who is the volunteer family support coordinator for the 671st.

She is just getting organized. Among other duties, she will filter and verify needs and requests that we will be forwarding to the business community. We will into a little more detail into that activity at the end of our discussion.

We have several key people here with us tonight.

Norb Murray – a retired Marine officer and member of our post.

He is already coordinating activity among community business leaders, particularly through Rotary, to help provide professional and business help to the families left behind.

Bill Phillips – our post quartermaster. Similar to a treasurer. He will coordinate cash donations. Money donated through the VFW for this cause is a tax-deductible charitable contribution. Uncle Sam does provide free mailing privileges for letters from the war zone but we have to pay postage for everything leaving from here and supplies for the family support unit coordination efforts.

Richard Pasini – our post adjutant, duties similar to that of a corporate secretary when you incorporate a business organization.

Keeps us organized.

AL Turner – Al is Mr. VFW in this area and has never ending enthusiasm for promoting patriotism. He is our post newsletter editor and is a trustee.

Ron Anderson – is a member of both KWVA and is our hall mgr for Patriot Hall. The 671st was one of the units he drilled with during his 43 years of Reserve service. He was activated during Desert Storm and is our key liaison with this unit. He will talk a little about the family support services as soon as I finish with a couple more items.

As I mentioned earlier, our VFW post and the KWVA adopted three units. We found other local communities that had unit members as residents – West Linn for the Marines 6th Engineering Battalion and four members from the Army Reserve Medical units lived in Wilsonville. It is our hope that if you pass this petition, other communities in Oregon and around the country will follow this example to support our citizen-soldiers who are being sent in harm’s way.

Now, we will let Ron provide some more details Then if you any more questions, any one of us will be happy to answer.

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