A plea for peace and sanity

Fellow Defenders of Life and Liberty,

As a widow of an RAF pilot officer who died from lung cancer thought to have been caused by nuclear radiation, and because of my present husband’s suffering from the Hodgkin’s Lymphoma from Agent Orange, I have often had cause to think of the sacrifice my own family has quietly endured in the name of the most precious thing we still have: life, liberty, justice and freedom for all.

My grandfather was too old to enlist in the Second Sino-Japanese War, but as a British National in Shanghai with linguist skills, he did important work translating several languages. For his “service,” he was water boarded, tortured, and experienced other atrocities. He died back in England, broken in spirit.

My father, a Scot who lived in Shanghai, although disabled from tuberculosis, signed on with a volunteer regiment, the Shanghai Fusiliers, and died later from war related privations in South Africa. The embargo on ships returning to the U.K. ended a week after he died. He left a widow, my mother, with a baby girl and a newborn.

We all tend to think that our sad experience is the ultimate in sacrifice. I think my family can be thanked for its “service.” If we study war, we can see that nothing has changed for any victim of any past or present war. War means sacrifice. Regretfully, it is the price of freedom.

Today, because communication is so immediate and often slips through uncensored, the reality is that we know first-hand that our beautiful men and women are suffering unbelievable physical losses and mental pain. Sadly, the wheels of relief are often far from timely, and life is, at times, so intolerable it is ended by the soldier.

One thing that is changing is our understanding of what combat does to everyone. Another thing that is changing is the technology of war mongering.

When I moved to Whidbey I believed I was coming to a small bucolic island community where “sailors and farmers” lived in harmony. My grandmother used to explain to us that you were either a sailor or a farmer, meaning that you either stayed home or traveled.

I have read with great interest the history of Whidbey Island, and the various interlopers who formed the basis of settlements as we know them today. It would seem that we are on the verge of allowing a new interloper, who has crept up on us slowly, and with increasing noise.

It would seem that we do not have freedom, liberty, “peace,” and justice. Some would argue that they do not have life as they remember it in terms of “peace.”

I now know that Whidbey is not an entirely harmonious destination. Beautiful as it is, and kind as many folk are, there is a darker side.

Supporting our troops has been the rallying cry of many survivors of past wars on the Island, (excluding the ones who became post war objectors), black shirted council members, those not interested in the health and hearing issues of those in the flight paths. Those who only see loss of income, or who maintain that the only real issue is falling real estate values.

It has been sad to see neighbor estranged from neighbor. Sad to see signs in Oak Harbor suggesting that Coupeville bear the brunt of the noise.

This is a problem on many levels, and while it is trite to name property values and small business loss as the main considerations, it is a subject that should be carefully scrutinized by the Military at its highest level, and sensible alternative runways for increasingly noisy jets should be made a priority.

I would be uncomfortable promoting central Whidbey as a tourist destination because of the potential for hearing damage.

If flying at the OLF is resumed, I believe it would be important that all farming of any livestock in the noise zone should cease, all horses moved from this area, and all pets kept indoors during hours of operation. This should impact the three million dollar WAIF facility. All farm workers and all businesses close to the OLF should supply workers with hearing protection and be notified of flight schedules. The Little League park and the dog park should be closed during hours of flying.

The hospital should be preparing itself for a possible major catastrophe, which very obviously it will not be able to handle. Perhaps a couple of extra military helicopters should be kept on hand to medi-vac patients out to Seattle hospitals.

Finally, how very uncomfortable, and possibly stressful for the pilots who fly those beautiful planes, to know that Whidbey is so divided. These crews go where they are told, and do what they are told to do.

Every so often an opinion from within the military comes to light concerning an individual’s feelings about noise levels. Once you enlist, you are obligated to carry out a duty, not to have an opinion that opposes your orders.

Someone needs to listen to these lone brave voices!

Some people might believe that this is a positive way to support troops if they are not able to speak up for themselves without fear of reprisals. I would therefore appeal to those who have the power to turn this thing around.

Move the planes and the pilots to a safe place. A place that can support the growing technology. A place where they are not the center of controversy.

It would be a good thing if the military would be seen to restore harmony to the island and its communities.


Bridgit Montgomery Sims

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