Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

News You Didn't Read in Pullman's "Paper of Record"

From Saturday's Moscow-Pullman Daily News:
Student recalls experience in Iraq during Veterans Day ceremony

By Erin Madison, Daily News staff writer

Jason Farmer’s college career didn’t get off to the start he’d planned.

Farmer, 22, was pulled from Washington State University in the middle of his first semester to go to Iraq with the Army National Guard.

Iraq was brutal at times and lonely at others, said Farmer, who served there for more than 18 months. He thought about returning home every day.

Farmer spoke about his experiences during a Veterans Day ceremony on the WSU campus Saturday.

“I cannot be the one to complain,” said Farmer, who is on track to graduate in 2007.

Every day he gets to enjoy the comforts of home is a day to honor those who didn’t return, Farmer said.

He is grateful for his experience in Iraq. He said it turned him into a more dedicated, mature individual.

Farmer kept his speech to a minimum Saturday, as the chilling wind kept the crowd rubbing their hands and wiggling their toes to stay warm.

After his speech, a Global War on Terrorism plaque was unveiled at the WSU Veterans’ Memorial. The plaque accompanies others listing the WSU students who died in combat in World War I, World War II and the Korean and Vietnam wars.

The new plaque lists three names: James Shull, Damien Ficek and Jamie Campbell.

Shull graduated from WSU in 1995. He was killed in Baghdad in November 2003.

Ficek was a WSU student serving with the Army National Guard. He was killed on patrol in Baghdad in December 2004.

Campbell, a 2002 WSU grad, died in January when the helicopter she was flying went down in northern Iraq.

Farmer offered his sincerest condolences to Campbell’s family, who attended Saturday’s ceremony.

“War is ugly, and nobody wishes it,” he said.

Veterans deserve more than one day of recognition per year, he said.

Ben Gettings, commander of the Spokane Order of the Purple Heart, also spoke at the ceremony.

He asked any World War II veterans to raise their hands, and a few of the 40-some people who attended the event did so.

“You are my heroes,” said Gettings, who served in the Korean War.

He left for war expecting it to be a “picnic,” he said.

When Gettings got into combat, he and the other young soldiers quickly realized war was anything but a picnic. He said he only survived because of guidance from the World War II veterans who fought alongside him.

“If it wasn’t for these World War II vets, I would not be here today,” he said.

Gettings has occasionally come out of a grocery store to find a simple, hand-written thank you note tucked under his car’s windshield wiper. His car has Purple Heart plates, so he’s easy to identify as a veteran.

He encouraged members of the audience to take the time to write little notes like that.

“You cannot believe how that can change that person’s day,” he said.

The ceremony ended with a 21-gun salute, and the playing of “Amazing Grace” and taps.

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