Last Wednesday in Olympia was Washington National Guard Recognition Day. Many members of both the Air and Army National Guards were present, as was their commander, Major General Timothy Lowenberg.
At 10 a.m. they posted the colors in the Senate, then a quartet of Army Guard members sang the National Anthem. Afterwards, the Air Guard chaplain gave the invocation. A resolution honoring the National Guard was then read and numerous senators spoke on the Senate floor thanking them for their service both here in our state during emergencies and also in perilous parts of the world. That was followed by a long and loud standing ovation for the Guard by the senators and Senate staff.
The same ceremony was held in the House of Representatives a half hour later. Later that morning we were privileged to attend a purple heart pinning, the first time I had witnessed that ceremony. That took place in the State Reception Room on the third floor of the Legislative Building.
The Guard members were gathered around the room in their military uniforms. Several senators were there, and Brad Owen, the lieutenant governor, and his staff were helping with the arrangements.
While waiting for the governor to arrive so the ceremony could begin, we talked to some of the uniformed men and women. The two Guardsmen that Jim and I stood next to were from New York and New Hampshire-a long way from home. During the ceremony we learned that the Purple Heart was first given by General George Washington during the Revolutionary War. He ordered that a heart made of purple cloth be pinned over the left chest for being wounded under enemy fire. It is specifically a combat decoration.
Wednesday's recipient was Sergeant Barbara Littleton. Her father is a retired Navy man. Her husband is also in the Guard and will soon be deployed to Iraq. She has a 16-year-old daughter, Tiffany, who is staying with her grandmother in California. Sergeant Littleton is a college graduate and is now working on a Master's Degree in education.
Imagine my surprise to learn that this petite lady in trim khakis is a heavy wheeled vehicle mechanic! She has 14 years of military service. In January 2004 she was transferred to the Washington Army National Guard and prepared for deployment with Company B, 181st Support Battalion from Yakima. Her battalion was sent to Camp Anaconda near Balad, Iraq.
The following is a quote from her Purple Heart Award. "On the morning of June 2nd, 2004, Sgt. Littlton was on duty at the East Entry Control Point of Camp Anaconda when an enemy mortar round landed and exploded just 10 meters away. Sgt. Littleton sustained wounds to her left upper extremities and shoulder. She was evacuated to the Combat Support Hospital where she was evaluated and treated. She was later referred to a neurologist and received physical therapy. Her physician determined that additional treatment would be done at Madigan Army Medical Center at Fort Lewis, Washington, where she was transferred and continues to undergo treatment and therapy."
We talked to Sgt. Littleton after the Governor had pinned the purple heart on her uniform. She said shrapnel from the explosion was flying everywhere and pieces from it embedded in her left arm and shoulder. Her helmet saved her head. She hopes for a full recovery and that I was glad to hear!
We thanked her for her service on behalf of all of us. She is another everyday hero putting her life on the line for freedom. This personal encounter reminded me again that we need to keep these men and women and their families in our thoughts and prayers.
Jerri Honeyford, wife of Sen. Jim Honeyford (R-Sunnyside), provides her Across our State column as a means to keep local readers informed on what is currently transpiring in Olympia.