Thursday, March 7, 2019

They meet at the U.S. Mexico border: The needy, the helpers and the guards

2/27/19 The Chatterbox 
Cottage Grove, Oregon
Betty Kaiser

Chris Heritage is a born helper and she is one busy lady. I first got to know her as the talented bell choir director at 1st Presbyterian Church. She’s also a loving wife, mother, grandmother, sister and friend. Plus, as a PeaceHealth Certified Midwife, she has always felt a call to help refugees around the world. But most of the places she hoped to go were too far away.

Then she heard about the Humanitarian Respite Center run by Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley in McAllen, Texas—across from Reynosa, Mexico. The Center was started in 2014 in response to exhausted Central America refugees arriving in the U.S. to escape violence and poverty. They were alone and bewildered upon arrival.

Enter the church nuns. Their missions statement says in part: “We believe that human beings who have no food, no security, no access to shower, etc. are people in crisis. We will continue responding to the needs of these families in crisis as long as there is a need.”

Last year a request went out from the clinic for help from Spanish speaking medical volunteers. Dr. Lauren Herbert, M.D., a PeaceHealth pediatrician, answered the call and invited Chris to come along. This was an opportunity not to be missed. Travel to a crisis at our own border was reasonable, people were suffering, she speaks Spanish and the timing was good. She thought, “I can do this.” Another nurse from Bellingham, WA joined them.

Upon arrival at the clinic on Jan. 13, they were put to work immediately. Buses arrive daily from the ICE detention facility with several hundred refugees who have been released to enter the country. Here, they are greeted by the volunteers with smiles and given help in connecting with their U.S. sponsors, a hot meal, warm showers and bathrooms, beds, clothing, shoes, medical help, phone services and safety courses.

Chris says, “Most of them are headed east. They stay for a day or two before continuing on their journey. People who felt especially sick came right away to the clinic for medical help. There was usually a surge of children and adults needing our help in the afternoon and into the evening. We would go to bed and the next morning there was a line again. We took care of everything from minor colds to bruises, scrapes, headaches, stomach aches, athletes’ foot and occasionally more serious illnesses. People with life threatening problems are sent to the local hospital ER.

“They have so much hope,” she says.  “Even the ones with ankle monitors who would likely be sent back to the dangerous situations they are trying to escape. I have met and worked with similar families here in Oregon. They are hardworking, kind, hopeful. They have strong family values, are attentive to their children. So happy to be here. Now, having worked in Texas, I have a new respect for their struggles.”

The volunteers occasionally had opportunities to take a break around lunch time to learn firsthand about the border situation.

“One day we visited La Posada, a place where Catholic nuns provide longer term housing and support for refuges that don’t have an immediate place to go. Another time we visited a 19th century chapel that will be torn down if the wall is built. Then, the next group would arrive, and the work would start again until the early evening.”

Chris’ stories about the common humanity of the people she encountered are heartwarming. There were the needy, the helpers and the guards. The needy, of course, were the most obvious. There was a 12-year-old boy, separated (and later united) with his father in a truck accident, where people were killed crossing the border. Another boy had an infected leg from the wreck.

A woman who was 6-1/2 months pregnant fell in the Rio Grande River and was tossed about by the current. She was worried about her baby. Chris got out her stethoscope and they both laughed out loud as they heard the baby’s heartbeat. There were tears of happiness.

People from all walks of life come to help. There are clothes to be sorted, floors to be mopped, meals to be prepared and cleaning of all kinds to be done. A group of Mennonite men and women come regularly and prepare the soup of the day. A local church group comes often as does a church from Iowa. A Facebook group helps people in the McAllen area to donate pizza dinners to the Respite Center.

One day, Chris observed some official looking men with clipboards watching the children play. She was suspicious. Turns out they were sketching plans to build a playground. Kindness abounds.

And then there was an hour-long discussion with a border guard. The government was shut down, but this man was working without a paycheck for his family. Chris began their conversation by thanking him. The guard’s response was, “If I was not working, people would die. I could not live with myself if that happened.”

So, what can we do? These are not illegal immigrants. They are legal. They had a destination. Still, they are needy. Getting from their country to ours is not easy even when they’ve done the paperwork. Of course, the easiest way to help is by direct donations to organizations like the Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande.

Advocating for just treatment of the immigrants is another way to help. Sometimes government needs a little nudge to tell them that what they’re doing is kinda crazy. Here’s an example from Chris:

 “When people cross the border and turn themselves into the border patrol, they are sent to ICE detention. Their shoelaces are removed and taken away. Everyone needs a new pair of shoelaces when they arrive at the Center. One of the volunteers tried to get the shoelaces back from ICE, but so far, ‘NO” is the answer. There may be a logical reason for this, but to have them replaced days later by donations and volunteers seems pretty inefficient.” Betty sez, “That’s government for you.”

Many thanks to Chris for sharing her story and to all who care for these newcomers with open minds, hearts and expertise.

 God bless them all and God bless the USA!

Contact Betty Kaiser’s Chatterbox by email 

Saturday, February 23, 2019


1/23/19 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

Laughter cures the winter blues for this senior citizen

One of the reasons that my husband and I moved to Oregon was to experience “the seasons.” You know, spring, summer, fall and winter. The latter, however, is my least favorite season. It’s cold, wet and dark and as I sit down at my computer to write this column, it’s another dreary winter day. True-blue, born and bred Oregonians revel in this weather. You can tell by my grumpy attitude, I’m an import waiting for spring.

Fortunately, my family, friends and readers have been cheering me up with lots of crazy computer cartoons, jokes and words of wisdom. Most are for senior citizens. And since my birthday this month, they have been working overtime to send me words of cheer that begin with “You know you’re a senior citizen when…”

Some of them are only too happy to add, “Of course, you’re older that I am!” So, just exactly what age is considered a senior citizen? Well, various sources say the age of a senior citizen begins at 60- 65. The Social Security Administration says that 67 is the age of retirement. I was about 60 when Taco Bell asked me if I was a senior. So, I guess anyone with gray hair is fair game to be elderly.

Last month my daughter Kathy started a flurry of senior jokes and advice with a “Welcome to the Golden Years” dialog. Someone passed it on to her, to pass on to me. It sounds like a mom and dad conversation because I am prone to lose keys. Visualize Chuck and me and prepare to laugh.

 “The keys weren’t in my pocket. Suddenly I realized I must have left them in the car. Frantically, I headed for the parking lot. My husband has scolded me many times for leaving my keys in the car’s ignition. He’s afraid that the car could be stolen.

As I looked around the parking lot, I realized he was right. The parking lot was empty. It was gone. I immediately called the police. I gave them my location, confessed that I had left my keys in the car and that it had been stolen. Then I made the most difficult call of all to my husband. ‘I left my keys in the car and it’s been stolen.’

There was a moment of silence. I thought the call had been disconnected but then I heard his voice. ‘Are you kidding me?’ he barked! I dropped you off at the mall!’ Now it was my turn to be silent. Embarrassed, I said, Well, come and get me. He retorted, ‘I will. Just as soon as I convince the police that I didn’t steal your dang car!’”

The following senior citizen quotes are mostly one-liners with attitude. My friends and I don’t like to waste words explaining ourselves. We tend to be bluntly truthful and we don’t take ourselves too seriously. After you read the following quips ask yourself, if maybe, you too are a senior citizen.
Today I was in a store that sells sunglasses, and only sunglasses. A young lady walked over to me and asked, "What brings you in today? I looked at her and said, "I'm interested in buying a refrigerator.  " She didn't quite know how to respond!

When people see a cat's litter box they always say, "Oh, have you got a cat?" Just once I want to say, "No, it's for company!" 

It’s okay if you disagree with me. I can’t force you to be right.
Aging:  Eventually you will reach a point when you stop lying about your age and start bragging about it. 

Hospital and medical forms always ask who is to be called in case of an emergency. I think you should write, "An ambulance.”
The older you get, the tougher it is to lose weight because by then your body and your fat have gotten to be really good friends. 

Being young is beautiful but being old is comfortable.

Some people try to turn back their "odometers." Not me. I want people to know WHY I look this way. I've traveled a long way and a lot of the roads were not paved.

Reporters interviewed a 104-year old woman. ‘What do you think is the best thing about being 104?” “No peer pressure” she answered.

Ann Landers said: “At age 20, we worry about what others think of us. At age 40, we don’t care what they think of us. At age 60, we discover they haven’t been thinking of us at all.”

That’s it for now. Thanks for making me laugh and forgetting it isn’t springtime. May your troubles be less, your blessings be more and nothing but happiness come through your door.

Contact Betty Kaiser’s Chatterbox 

Sunday, January 6, 2019

2018 Family Memories of Christmas Past

12/19/18 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

The older I get, the more reflective I become during the Christmas season.  At this stage of my life, the joyful ghosts of Christmas past bring me great joy and fill me with gratitude.

The heart of the season—the birth of Jesus— has not changed. But everything else has. Especially gift giving. I miss the old days of fulfilling childhood dreams with big and small surprises. Today we buy gift cards. Come along with me on a trip down memory lane and see if you can relate.

My family’s early history (both sides) was one of poverty. An orange in the toe of a stocking was a big deal. It also became a tradition.

My parents were born at the turn of the 20th century. My dad’s family of seven was dirt poor in Missouri. I don’t remember him ever talking about receiving a gift. He and his siblings were barefoot and wore dirty hand-me down clothes. His mother died of tuberculosis when he was in the 6th grade and he quit school to go to work to put food on the table.

Mother was an only child and her dad originally was a roughneck in the oil fields of Mexico. Early pictures of her show a barefoot girl in a dirty dress in the blowing desert sand. Later, things picked up rather dramatically for her family and I now have her beautiful French china doll.

Mom and dad met and married in Missouri and moved to California near her parents during the Great Depression. Grandpa established a business and by the grace of God they all survived and went on to buy houses and live the American dream.

Chuck’s family immigrated from Wisconsin to Calif., during WWII. In Long Beach, his dad welded the Victory Ships. It was a dangerous job but it both helped the war effort and put food on the table for his family. Later, his job at Sears bought Christmas gifts for his three sons.

One year when Chuck was about 8 or 9 Santa brought him his favorite gift ever—a Gilbert Erector Set.  He spent hours building cars and even a motorized roller coaster. It foretold his future as a craftsman extraordinaire.

In my family, I remember what seemed like lavish Christmases. Oranges and apples were in stockings. Under the tree were new clothes and a toy. I still have my Madame Alexander bride doll. My favorite was a Schwinn bicycle. The same one that I would later fall off while racing the boy down the street. It put me in the hospital with a compound fracture of my left arm.

Our kids were blessed with toys. Their dad managed stores for Toy World! A childhood dream world. They always knew what the latest and greatest toys were. Chuck would put them on lay-away to be brought home and wrapped at midnight after the store closed on Christmas Eve.

Kathy, our oldest, was an avid doll collector and had her own dad-built playhouse in the backyard. Her favorite? “My bike,” she said. “In the pre-car, parents drive the kids to a million activities days…bikes were our freedom, our connection with our friends, the beach, shopping and more!”

Son Jeff was all about speed and music: skateboards, model cars, model airplanes and trumpets.

 Grandson Matthew says, “My absolute favorite gift was a used MacBook when I was in middle school. This gift allowed me to have something to create music on; illustrate and sketch out ideas; learn about things through sources like YouTube. It was an incredible gift that allowed me to learn everything from music mixing to video editing and graphic design. It is something that will forever stick out in my mind and I am super grateful for.”

Ashley, our granddaughter-in-law remembers her family’s on-going puzzle tradition. Every Christmas morning there’s a new puzzle for everyone to enjoy. She says it keeps them connected and doing something together with very little effort.

Finally, John, our youngest son, passes on a lesson learned:
“When I was 13, I wanted a 12-string guitar more than anything in the world. Knowing that no one would buy me a brand new 12 string guitar for Christmas—too expensive, too extravagant—I put a janky, used,
"trampoline action" 12 string guitar on layaway at Heck Music in Ventura.

“When my mom heard about it, she drove me to Heck Music, demanded they give my money back, and lectured me all the way home saying, ‘Never buy yourself something before Christmas!’

“I was humiliated, and angry. I knew darned well I wasn't getting a 12-string guitar for Christmas.

“On Christmas day, my grandparents arrived. Grandpa tossed me the car keys and said, "Well, you better get the presents out of the trunk." I opened the trunk, and sitting right on top was a guitar case!

“I had to wait until all the other presents were opened before I opened that guitar case. Inside was a brand new, beautiful Yamaha FG312 12 string guitar. I played that guitar for decades, until it was (sadly) stolen from my office about 10 years ago. Best gift ever!

“The moral of the story is, never buy yourself something before Christmas...because you never know what you might get!”

Merry Christmas, everyone! And may all your memories be ones of joy.

Contact Betty Kaiser’s Chatterbox at  

Saturday, December 15, 2018


11/21/18 The Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

Every November, I like to look back at the humble beginnings of this place that we call home— the United States of America. This year, as usual, our super-power country is in the midst of controversies of every kind. They include on-going wars and conflicts, political differences, homelessness, inequality, devastating climate changes, and more. It has ever been so. Nevertheless, we have a mighty fine place to call home.

I love stories of our founding parents and what life was like in 1620 when the Pilgrims arrived on the Mayflower at Plymouth Rock in the Americas. And yes, I know that long before the Pilgrims arrived, the area had been visited by sea-going travelers from Africa, China, Europe and the Vikings. And we all know that Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492!

But it was the Pilgrims who settled into the land when they arrived on our shores in 1620. They had previously lived in England under religious persecution and moved to Holland where there were other problems. So, off they sailed to the Americas. Now if that wasn’t bravery, I don’t know what is. Because this was no cruise ship that they were on.

They had planned to cross the ocean on the Speedwell, a passenger ship, but it developed mechanical problems. Instead, they boarded its sister ship, the Mayflower. A freighter, it was not built to carry passengers. Quarters were tight, food was rationed, the seas were rough, storms caused leaks and weakness in the structure, people were sick and one person died.

It took about 66 days to get to the new world. Their planned destination was the Colony of Virginia but the winter weather forced them to return to Cape Cod. There were about 30 crew and 102 passengers aboard.  

After the ship dropped anchor on Nov. 11, 1620, the new settlers had the foresight to write and sign the Mayflower Compact. Some of the passengers were non-Puritans who wanted to proclaim their own liberty. The Pilgrims wanted to establish their own govt. while affirming allegiance to the Crown of England. The result was an agreement in which all 41 of the male passengers consented to follow the community’s rules for the sake of order and survival. They were off to a good start.

That first winter was brutal. There was no local lumber yard to buy supplies. They had to build crude shelters from whatever was at hand. Food was scarce and there was no medicine to treat diseases like pneumonia.  Sources say that at one point each person could only eat 5 kernels of corn daily.

 Starvation, disease and exposure soon killed half the population. Only 53 adults survived that first winter. Fourteen of the 18 adult women died. Weak and hungry, they gave their children food and herbal medicines. Eleven of the 31 children died. Orphans were taken in by other families. Two baby boys had been born on the Mayflower journey. One died at 2 years of age. Another boy, Peregrine White was born nine days after they landed and he lived to be 83 years old.

Strangely enough, the Pilgrims had landed in an area where some Europeans had settled in the mid-1610s. An epidemic wiped out most of their coastal population. According to historian Charles Mann, “Plymouth was on top of a village that had been deserted by disease. The pilgrims didn’t know it but they were moving into a cemetery.”

Enter Squanto. He was the only living Patuxent Indian in the area. He had survived slavery in England and knew the language. He taught the Pilgrims to grow corn, fish and negotiated a peace treaty between them and the Wampanoag Native Americans.

The arrival and generosity of the Wampanoag’s saved the Pilgrim immigrants from starvation and death. They welcomed the newcomers and taught them what they needed to know to raiser bumper crops of corn, beans and more. Both sides abided by the peace treaty.

So where does Thanksgiving come in? Well, the religious Pilgrims yearly celebrated days of thanksgiving—days of prayer, not feasting. In the fall of 1621, the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag celebrated the colony’s first successful harvest with venison supplied by the Indians. The feast lasted three days and was attended by 63 Pilgrims and 90 Native Americans. Two years later in 1623, the colonists gave thanks to God for rain after a two-month drought and Thanksgiving feasting became a yearly event.

This year, as we celebrate Thanksgiving and our many personal blessings, let us also remember our foundation. We are a unique, mixed nation of people, laws and compassion—built by immigrants and mutual respect. Let us never forget that we are blessed in so many ways.

Happy Thanksgiving and God bless you all!

Contact Betty Kaiser’s Chatterbox at

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Life and laundry before computers

10/24/18 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

Today’s column subject was triggered by a cartoon in the Register Guard newspaper. “Another View” shows a man reading a newspaper headline that says, “Sears files for bankruptcy.”

Sitting on the floor are two little kids. The boy says to his playmate, “My dad says that when he was a kid, they had to drive to a store to buy stuff.” The girl, looking at Amazon on her computer screen replies, “People had it so rough in the olden days.”

At first I laughed and then I said to myself… life without computers was not rough. Computers make some things easy but they don’t solve all problems. Shopping wasn’t really a problem because we had people. Store clerks were your friends. They asked you how they could help, knew your dress size, advised you when something was going on sale and asked how your family was doing.

As I recall, we lived simple, uncomplicated, organized lives using common sense.  Electronic devices didn’t tell us what to do or how to do it.  Our households somewhat followed these simple rules:

Wash on Monday,
Iron on Tuesday,
Mend on Wednesday,
Churn on Thursday,
Clean on Friday,
Bake on Saturday,
Rest on Sunday

Those rules are embroidered on a set of tea towels (aka dish towels) that I received as a bridal shower gift in 1958. In that era of homemaking, we took daily chores very seriously. I still loosely plan my week around the above suggestions. Especially the washing, ironing, cleaning, baking and resting part. I was never very keen on mending or churning.

Again, life was not always easy but it wasn’t for lack of a computer. Doing the laundry? Now that was rough.  In fact, it was a homemaker’s full-time, never ending job. Come along with me as I reminisce about laundry day before running water or electricity.

For generations, washing clothes in a river was the normal way to get clothes clean—even when the river was frozen. Stains were treated at home by soaking in a lye solution, a washing bat or board was used to scrub them. Soap was used sparingly and could be made at home by those who had ashes and fat mixed with salt. The clothes were rinsed in the river and spread on bushes to dry.

Women often didn’t have time to wash clothes weekly. It was hard, time-consuming work. You can imagine that clothes were practically filthy before being washed. Often, groups would get together and help each other at a big laundry session every few weeks or months.

Lee Maxwell is 87 years old and vividly remembers when his family did the laundry. He says, “I remember my grandfather wearing his overalls until they literally stood up. Washing was washing. Today, we don’t really ‘wash.’ We kind of refresh. Your shirts don’t get that dirty.” Lee has a Washing Machine Museum in Eaton, Colorado.

Some areas of the world still wash their clothes in rivers but most of civilization has progressed. Wooden tubs and factory-made metal tubs made the chore easier. Tongs replaced sticks for lifting the washed items. Boxed soaps and starches were introduced in the 1800s. Clotheslines, pegs and pins made drying easier. Women found employment as washers or had a box mangle to do ironing.

By the time I came along, my mother and grandmother were still in the wringer washer era. I remember being scared to death to go out to the wash house where the machine was located. It was dark and damp and creepy out there. The machine was plugged in and hooked up to the hot and cold water of a deep sink. I think it took two people to do a load of laundry. Someone had to feed the clothes through the wringer to another person who caught them on the other side. Then they had to be hung out to dry.

I’m told that early on (before my time), mother’s long hair got caught in a wringer! Fortunately, grandmother was there to quickly unplug the machine before she was scalped!  By the 1950s, washing machines were greatly improved. A Speed Queen pamphlet touted that a 7-load washing could be done in one hour with one tubful of water! To my mind that’s questionable but all women had to be thrilled and I’m sure my mother was over the moon.

A final word on shopping and the cartoon. Chuck’s dad worked for Sears and his mother introduced me to Sears catalog shopping. Over the years, we bought a lot of things that way—curtains, sheets, tools and washing machines.  But our kid’s crib and changing table came from Sears brick and mortar stores as did their clothing. Shopping? Catalogs and neighborhood shops were our computers. No problem.

Betty Kaiser’s Chatterbox

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Bye-bye Bats—for now!

9/26/18 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

This has been quite a year for animal stories at our house. The latest one has left me shaking my head and wondering how pioneers ever survived various scourges let alone wolves and bears. It all began a few months ago when I went out to Chuck’s workshop. He works downstairs and I store important things upstairs like holiday décor and outdoor furniture.

A few months ago, I was climbing the stairs when I heard what sounded like a herd of mice scurrying around in the ceiling. Then it was quiet. This happened several times until I asked Chuck to give a listen. He didn’t hear any scurrying noises but to appease me he put out extra mouse traps. We found lots of droppings but caught no mice.

A little background. We are used to dealing with unwanted critters. We bought our house in 1989 and there were mice in the walls. One morning early on I found a bat in the shower! Periodically our dogs would spy a bat flying around the house at night. We would capture it with a butterfly net and take it outside to fly away. A new roof solved the problem. The original cedar shake roof was their home. The day the old roof was removed, hundreds of bats were awakened and darkened the sky overhead. Bye-bye bats? Nope.

Fast forward to summer 2018. The bats were still living outside. We thought all was well. Our son John and grandson Josh were visiting and we were going to Bohemia Park for the Eugene Symphony. Josh and I went upstairs and brought down four folding chairs. They were strangely dirty.  Each one had a large, black blob in the middle of the chair. A closer exam revealed sleeping bats!

You would think that I would get hysterical but I found them kind of fascinating. I took the chairs to some nearby trees, moved the bats and we went to the park. End of story? Not by a long shot. The so-called mice noises got so loud in the shop ceiling that Chuck could hear them. An exterminator came who was “pretty sure” that the droppings were from mice. He put down some new-fangled traps scented with pheromones and we caught…wait for it: nine (9) bats! This time I got pretty close to hysterical. We were bat killers!

I spent that evening googling everything I could about bats. Did you know that next to rodents, bats are the second most common land mammals? They are an invaluable insect predator, sometimes eating half their body weight in mosquitos. They eat insects that could damage crops and can live to be 20 years old. They have a bad rap about rabies. And finally, they are feeling a housing crunch because their favorite hollow trees, old barns and houses are disappearing.

Thus, we ended up with not one but two colonies of bats in our warm, sheltered shop. They found an entry and exit area where birds had picked holes in the walls. Then I learned that once they nest in your home they will come back to the same place year after year. So, I went looking for a professional who could evict the bats humanely.

Here’s a quick overview of how to evict bats:
    •    Find all outside entrances
    •    Install one-way bat check valves that allow bats to leave but not return.
    •    Leave in place 5-7 days
    •    Check to make sure all bats are gone.
    •    Remove the check valves and seal the entrances.

Sounds easy. Right? Wrong! Fish and Game regulations apply to Oregon bats. The company that we chose came out in mid-August and explained that our bats would soon be migrating to Mexico! They could not be evicted until after the first of Sept. Their babies had to be strong enough to fly with them to hibernate over the winter. Then, they will return next spring to their favorite new home at CG Lake.

This was getting so complicated that it made my head spin. What to do?  Well, one evening around the first of the month, Chuck was out pottying the dogs. Suddenly, he looked up and saw hundreds of bats circling and taking flight. The next day, the bats were gone out of the shop. We had dodged one bullet. Then came the cleanup. If I had more room, I would tell you the process in detail. Suffice it to say that it involved men wearing masks, removing ceiling panels, vacuuming guano, sweeping, sealing holes and quarantining the area.

We were told that the bats have good memories. They will return next year—to our house. So we’re going with a plan to put up bat houses and attract them with some of their saved guano. I’ll let you know how that works out.

 Hasta la vista murciélago!

 Betty Kaiser’s Chatterbox Sept. 2018 

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Military news from Cottage Grove and more

8/29/18 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

Colonel Kirsten M. Palmer
I have been following USAF Colonel Kirsten M. Palmer’s career for 20 years. She continues to amaze me. A local girl, Col. Palmer received her commission, as a Second Lieutenant, from the U.S. Air Force Academy in May 1995. Last year she was promoted to a full Colonel after receiving a Master of Science degree in National Resource Strategy with concentration in supply chain management at National Defense Univ., Ft. McNair, Washington, D.C

This year, Kirsten’s parents, Ron and Linda Palmer, were thrilled to learn that a promotion and a new duty station for her will be on the west coast. On Aug. 5, 2018, they, along with other family members and invited friends, attended an Assumption of Command Ceremony for their daughter at McChord Field in Washington State.

Col. Palmer is the new commander of the 446th Maintenance Group, Joint Base Lewis-McChord. She is now responsible for directing all aircraft and equipment maintenance support for three squadrons of C-17 Globemaster III aircraft. She will also oversee the quality and quantity of training for over 400 Reservists, ensuring they are prepared to perform the wing’s mission in peacetime and during combat.  Very impressive.

On the lighter side, her promotion means that for the first time since her career began, her parents will be close enough to often visit Addyson, their now 9-year old granddaughter, and her parents on a regular basis. Another change in the family life is that dad, Col. Roger Lang, a former USAF pilot has retired and is now a pilot for United Airlines. They will be living in Gig Harbor, WA. It doesn’t get much better than that. Congratulations, Kirsten!

On another note, I would like to say a few words about the passing of local resident Leonard Waitman. His military service reads like a page out of Tom Brokaw’s book “The Greatest Generation.” 

Leonard was both a soldier and scholar. His time as a soldier began before his graduation from Grant Union High in Sacramento. The day that WWII was declared, his entire class of seniors went down to enlist. He received his high school diploma while in training and served in the U.S. Army Air Corps, a precursor to the U.S. Air Force.

His obituary related some of his 3 1/2 years of service without liberty in the war zone. At his memorial service those stories came alive. He had first-hand experience with people and situations that we’ve only read about in books: Invasions of countries, aiding Col. Doolittle, Gen. George Patton, blessed by Pope Pious XII, seeing the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius. etc. Each one gave him insights into the real world of war that would be with him forever.

Leonard’s years as a scholar came after the war. His degrees and accomplishments are impressive. His education included both a Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees and a PhD.  He taught for 32 years and wrote several books. He was a dedicated Christian and served as president of Bethesda Bible College. He and his wife retired to Cottage Grove.

I met Leonard around the time of the 9/11 attacks. He and his fellow Veteran of Foreign Wars buddies were fountains of information for me as I struggled with what was happening and how to communicate it to my readers. A gifted communicator, he was front and center at every CG Memorial Day remembrance ceremony. Our city was blessed for having him amongst us and he will be missed.

I recently read that for many Americans, today’s wars are closer to Reality TV than to reality. War is not at our back door so we’re oblivious. Some of the hotspots around the world where we send our young men and women in the armed forces are Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Niger, the Philippines, Somalia and Syria. Many of us don’t know where those countries are or why we are there.

At Leonard Waitman’s memorial, little toy soldiers were given to each person who walked in the door. We were asked to put the soldier in a conspicuous place in our house to remind us that freedom is not free. Somewhere in the world, right now, real people are fighting, dying and being maimed in real battles. The toy soldier can be a reminder to pray for their protection and wisdom on the part of those who send them to war.

Finally, as I put this column to bed, news came over the airwaves that Sen. John McCain has died. He was a good man. Whether you liked or disliked his politics, he served his country well. God rest his soul.

Betty Kaiser’s Chatterbox at