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  

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