Now Playing: Stacy Bannerman, Lietta Ruger, Susan Livingston
Topic: Local Lobbying
Families want Guard excused from Iraq
MICHAEL GILBERT; The News Tribune
Published: March 8th, 2005 12:01 AM
Family members of soldiers serving in Iraq urged Gov. Christine Gregoire on Monday to call on President Bush to release Washington National Guard troops from service in Iraq.
The family members, who oppose the war, said the heavy use of guardsmen in Iraq is diminishing the state’s response to natural disasters and creating long-term hardships for the part-time soldiers and their families.
Their meeting with an aide to Gregoire follows similar efforts in at least two other states.
Members of the same groups – Military Families Speak Out, Gold Star Families for Peace and Veterans for Peace, among others – rallied in Salem, Ore., last week to press a similar resolution to Oregon’s governor and lawmakers.
In Vermont, the majority of residents participating in the state’s annual March 1 town meetings endorsed a call for their governor to ask for the return of the state’s deployed guardsmen.
And in Montana, Gov. Brian Schweitzer asked the Pentagon last week to send home 1,500 of his state’s guardsmen and their helicopters, so they’ll be available for what is expected to be a difficult fire season.
The families who met in Olympia on Monday with Antonio Ginatta, an executive policy adviser for Gregoire, presented a mix of political and practical considerations. They contend the president’s primary reasons for war in Iraq “have been proven false or declared invalid.”
Long deployments are straining police and fire departments and other public safety agencies, many of whose members are part-time soldiers, they argue.
And there is a social cost.
“We need to be looking at the devastating effect these deployments, the unprecedented use of the Guard and Reserve, has had on families,” said Stacy Bannerman of Kent, whose husband is a Washington guardsman in Iraq.
Others who met Monday with Ginatta included Susan Livingston, whose brother, Spc. Joseph Blickenstaff, died in Iraq in 2003 while deployed with the first Fort Lewis Stryker brigade. His family is also active in the anti-war effort in Oregon, his home state.
Ginatta said he will present the group’s concerns to Gregoire and told the families they could expect to talk more with the governor’s office.
“The reintegration of our troops, getting them back into our state with as seamless a transition from combat to kitchen, is very important to the governor,” Ginatta said. But he added the groups’ demands “raise some very heavy federal questions that we have to look at.”
The National Guard generally works at the direction of governors unless the president calls units to active-duty service.
About 3,200 Washington guardsmen are in the process of returning home after a year in Iraq with the 81st Brigade Combat Team. It was the largest deployment of the Washington Guard since World War II.
But members of the groups that met in Olympia on Monday say their message is still relevant because U.S. troops are likely to be in Iraq for several years and Washington’s part-time soldiers might be sent back.
Michael Gilbert: 253-597-8921