Downriver Dispatches

News from Western Wahkiakum County and Naselle


November 23, 2023

Noreen and Joel Fitts just returned from a Navy reunion in Sparks, Nevada. Photo by Karen Bertroch

A Veteran's Navy Reunion

Joel and Noreen Fitts of Grays River recently returned from a trip to Sparks, Nevada where a Naval Reunion was held at the Nugget Casino. All the sailors from the USS Hancock A-19 aircraft carrier where Joel served on the flight deck with the catapult and rescue gear during the Vietnam war, were invited. He reported, "I was an Aviation Bosun, 3rd Class. My duty station from 1959 to 1964 was on a Super Aircraft Carrier. We lost a lot of boys during that time. My ship was built in 1938 and decommissioned in 1977 at San Francisco, California. This was the first all-ship reunion. "When I enlisted, I was 18 and ready to go. We sent out the fighter jets on their strikes in Vietnam. We had 1,000 people on board and thought it was a lot at that time. Now the ships are huge, and many more people are working on the aircraft carriers." The USS Enterprise currently carries 5,000 aboard. "There were 160 ships in our Company. One World War II veteran attended who was 96 years old. We were given two bus tours to Lake Tahoe and Truckee, then Virginia City and Carson City. They had a banquet for us the last night with a beautiful prayer for lost sailors. There was also a special time to honor MIA's and POW's that did not return from after Vietnam. Thinking about all the boys we lost, and the ones serving now, I am always aware of the families left behind."

"My wife, Noreen, and I drove down 1,400 miles in beautiful weather to attend the reunion. We both enjoyed the road trip. So, thank you, Lord, for this time of life, for food, for fun and sacrifice. Freedom in not free!" Joel and Noreen are both active members of the American Legion that meets at Rosburg Hall on the second Monday of the month with a meal at six made by the Women's Auxiliary, then their meetings start at 6:30 p.m. Veterans and their family members are always welcome. Joel told me that of the fifty men in his V-2 Division 4, four attended the reunion. The rest had either passed away or were unable to attend. "A few years back, at one of our reunions in Bremerton, we were invited aboard a new nuclear submarine, the USS Stenis. It was huge and full of sailors, with thirty percent women. I asked some of the men how it was working with women aboard. I was told the women were good and knew their craft well. Times have certainly changed."

Joel and Noreen live on a part of the old Sorenson farm in Grays River. Joel has a new "Ebike (electric) and rides around the Grays River loop and Hull Creek Road daily. Noreen is a well-known watercolor artist. Some of her paintings will be for sale on December 2 at the Grays River Grange's West End Artists' Show. Other artists will be showing their paintings as well. Carol Ervest, Gail Wahlstrom and Sandra Prucha will have their art for sale, as well as Noreen, at the Grays River Grange Hall from 1-4 p.m.

I was sad to hear of the death of Rosalyn Carter. She was an active First Lady who brought mental health to the public during her time in the White House. As we think of her years of service, let us remember all the veterans who have returned from all wars with mental challenges. To leave active wartime in a far away country where everyone there is living a life of fear, then return to the safety of American life where we are living free daily lives, must be difficult. Let us pray for those serve in the military as we sit and give Thanks on Thursday, and move into Advent, then Christmas in a few weeks. Remember the song, "Bless the Beasts and the Children?" Let us think of children around the world as we read some of them: "Bless the beasts and the children; For in this world they have no voice, They have no choice. Bless the beasts and the children, For the world can never be, The world they see. Light their way, When the darkness surrounds them; Give them love, let it shine all around them. Bless the beasts and the children; Give them shelter from a storm; Keep them safe; Keep them warm." Songwriters: Barry De Vorzon/Perry L Botkin.

Calendar of Events:

Mondays/Wednesdays: Balance Class Naselle Community Center 2-3 p.m.

Second Monday: American Legion at Rosburg Hall, meal at 6 p.m. Meeting at 6:30 p.m.

Tuesdays: Naselle Lutheran Church: quilters in morning/knitters in afternoons.

Third Tuesday: Naselle/GRV School Board 6:30 p.m. Meeting will be in Grays River Fire Hall.

Wednesdays: AA meeting Grays River Grange at noon.

Second Wednesday: Grays River Flood Control District at Fire Hall 5:30 p.m.

First and third Wednesdays in Dec: Senior Lunch at Rosburg Hall. On Dec. 6 and 20.

Second Thursday: Johnson Park Board meeting at 10 a.m.

November 23: Thanksgiving meal at the CAP Senior Lunch at noon Rosburg Hall.

December 2: FAFF Christmas Bazaar from 9 a.m. -2 p.m. Vendors contact: West End Artists' Show (Ervest, Fitts, Wahlstrom, Prucha) at GR Grange 1-4 p.m.

December 3: FAFF Christmas program at Deep River Church at 1:30 p.m. and soup supper at Naselle Lutheran after Church Program.

December 17: Lighted Christmas Parade at 4:30 p.m. along Knappton Road in Naselle.

January 17: County conservation meeting. Dan Cothren, chair, at 2 p.m. at Courthouse 3rd floor.

Words for the Week: Bless the Beasts and the Children.


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