Monday, 27 May 2024

News

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Pearl Harbor survivors Bud Boner (left) and Jim Harris raise the American flag at the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association's memorial mast in Library Park in Lakeport on the morning of Tuesday, November 11, 2008. Photo by Ginny Craven.
 

 


LAKE COUNTY – Veterans Day was marked in solemn fashion around Lake County, as the community remembered the sacrifices of members of the US armed forces in the difficult work of protecting the country.


Here are some images of the day.



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Members of the United Veterans Council Military Funeral Honors Team raised the flag at Veterans Circle at Hartley Cemetery at 8 a.m. Rain caused the Avenue of Flags to fly for only a few hours at Hartley this year, with the flags not being flown at the Lower Lake or Upper Lake cemeteries. Photo by Terre Logsdon.


 


 

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The United Veterans Council Military Funeral Honors Team does a rifle volley at Hartley Cemetery on Tuesday. Photo by Ginny Craven.
 

 

 

 

 

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The United Veterans Council Military Funeral Honors Team's newly repainted bus, with team member Milt Hodgkinson and son, Mike Hodgkinson, and granddaughter. Photo by Ginny Craven.
 

 

 

 

 

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Robert Deppe, commander of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2015, and June Dye at Hartley Cemetery on Tuesday. Photo by Ginny Craven.
 

 

 

 

 

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Bagpiper Karen Seydal of Ukiah at the Blue Star Memorial By-Way marker unveiling in Nice on Tuesday afternoon. Photo by Harold LaBonte.
 

 


 

 

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The Sea Scouts Color Guard carries in the American flag at the county's Veterans Day ceremony in Lakeport. Photo by Harold LaBonte.
 

 

 

 

 

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Robin Pokorski, president of California Garden Clubs Inc. (left), and Gina-Belle Smith of the North Lake Garden Club unveil the new Blue Star Memorial By-Way marker unveiling in Nice on Tuesday afternoon. Photo by Harold LaBonte.
 

 

 

 

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LAKE COUNTY – As the nation marks Veterans Day this year, local veterans advocates say that medical care for the men and women who served in the armed forces remains a critical issue.


Bob Penny, the county's assistant veterans service officer and himself a Vietnam veteran, said the Veterans Services Office staff of three helps veterans and their dependents obtain the benefits due to them from local, state and federal agencies.


"That's our main purpose," he said.


It's a crucial task in Lake County, which has a large veterans population.


"We have about 8,000 veterans in our county, which is one of the highest veteran-to-population ratios in the state," he said.


The Veterans Administration is increasing medical services to veterans, particularly those in rural areas like Lake County, said Penny. "That is one of their big pushes right now."


There has been talk for many years of having a VA clinic in Lake County, and Penny said the agency – which has agreed a need exists here – is very seriously looking at locating a clinic in Clearlake, possibly in late 2009 or early 2010.


He said the VA is talking to doctors in Clearlake and discussing possibly locating a VA clinic in an Adventist Health clinic facility on Lakeshore.


Penny cautions, however, "Nothing is written in stone yet."


Lake County's veterans population is dominated by men and women who served in World War II, Korean and Vietnam, Penny said.


There also are a "handful" of veterans who have served in Iraqi and Afghanistan.


Local vets' No. 1 issue – across the generations – is medical care, said Penny.


The county's largest vet groups, World War II and Korean vets, are disappearing at a rapid pace, he said, as many of them reach their 80s and 90s.


Vietnam vets, in their 50s, 60s and some even older, have a variety of health issues as a legacy of their service, said Penny.


The biggest problem for Vietnam vets, he said, is a variety of cancers, diabetes and other conditions caused by Agent Orange exposure.


Dean Gotham, president of Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 951, said his organization is particularly concerned about the VA's plan to end Agent Orange screenings for veterans.


"They're cutting it off," he said, although when that's supposed to take place hasn't been announced.


VVA also is concerned that the VA has dropped some levels of health care for vets, said Gotham.


The No. 1 issue facing local veterans, according to Gotham, "has been and will continue to be assured funding for veterans health care.


"The VA budget goes through too many ups and downs," he said.


Last year, the government raised VA funding by about $77 million in an effort to address the growing cost of veterans' medical care, said Gotham. But the Assured Funding for Veterans Health Care Act died in committee this year.


"Funding is more important now than what is has been," said Gotham. He said it's especially critical in preparing to care for vets of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan.


Gotham said another concern for veterans is that the California National Guard has the lowest benefits level in the country, which VVA is trying to change. He said the guard's poor benefits situation is ironic, considering that California has the largest population of veterans of any state.


"Our state could stand to pick it up a notch," he said.


When it comes to younger veterans, Penny said some of them are still in a stage of denial about any physical and mental problems they may have as a result of their service.


Their issues of denial, Penny said, may have more to do with their youth; many will seek help later.


Younger veterans' denial differs from that suffered by Vietnam vets in an important respect, said Penny. Vietnam vets didn't reach out for help "because they weren't accepted as veterans back then."


Even today, that stigma seems to haunt Vietnam veterans. Gotham notes that while he has contact with many Vietnam veterans, a lot of them are reluctant when committing to joining groups like VVA.


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..



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CLEARLAKE – On Monday a Clearlake man received jail time, probation, fines and prohibitions on hunting for his conviction in a deer poaching case.


Pursuant to a plea agreement proposed by the District Attorney's Office, Judge Stephen Hedstrom sentenced Jose Manuel Hernandez-Medina, 53, to three years probation, 45 days jail, a fine of $2,295, and no hunting or possession of firearms in any area inhabited by game animals for three years.


Hernandez-Medina's .22 and .308 rifles, digital camera and machete were ordered forfeited to law enforcement authorities as part of the deal, according to Chief Deputy District Attorney Richard Hinchcliff, who oversees all fish and wildlife prosecutions in Lake County.


On July 5, Game Warden Loren Freeman received a call from an informant reporting several males standing around three dead doe deer along Round Mountain Road in the Clearlake Oaks area, according to Hinchcliff.


The informant reported a vehicle license plate number to the warden, who ran the plate to determine the address of the registered owner of the vehicle, Hinchcliff said.


Freeman responded to that address in the city of Clearlake, where he found Hernandez-Medina cleaning blood out of an ice chest. Hinchcliff said that, after further investigation, Freeman found and confiscated three doe deer that had been illegally killed, along with a .22 caliber rifle and ammunition, a .308 rifle, a digital camera and a machete.


Hinchcliff charged Hernandez-Medina with felony conspiracy and six misdemeanor violations of the Fish and Game Code.


On Monday, Hinchcliff said Hernandez-Medina pleaded guilty in Superior Court's Department Four in Clearlake to misdemeanor violations of taking deer when the season was not open, taking deer without possessing a deer tag, and possessing deer without being in possession of a valid hunting license.


Hinchcliff said other charges were dismissed in exchange for those admissions.


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Frank Parker received the Veteran of the Year Award from Capt. Woody Hughes of the United Veterans Council on Tuesday, November 11, 2008. Photo by Harold LaBonte.



LAKEPORT – At 11 a.m. Tuesday, approximately 90 years after the armistice was signed to cease World War I – “the war to end all wars” that almost wiped out a generation of young men in Europe – Lake County residents came together to remember not just that war so long ago, but to recall the service of millions of veterans in all of the nation's wars.


The Lake County Veterans Day Ceremony and Celebration was held at the Little Theater at the Lake County Fairgrounds on Martin Street.

 

The Sea Scouts Color Guard posted the flags and the Lake County United Veterans Council Military Funeral Honors Team was on hand to provide the rifle volley at the ceremony's end. Emily Barker, former Miss Lake County, sang the national anthem, the Clear Lake High School Band was on hand to play wartime favorites and United Veterans Council Chaplain Capt. Woody Hughes offered the opening prayer.


Bob Penny, Lake County's assistant veterans service officer, opened the event, and welcomed to the stage his boss, Jim Brown, who leads the Veterans Service Office, which works to get local veterans their benefits.


Brown thanked local veterans for their service. “We are in debt to our veterans,” Brown said. “All veterans have sacrificed part of their lives during war and peace.”


He, in turn, then welcomed Brad Onorato, district representative for Congressman Mike Thompson (D-St. Helena).

 

 

 

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Brad Onorato, district representative for Congressman Mike Thompson, spoke at the Tuesday ceremony. Photo by Harold LaBonte.
 

 

 


Thompson, Onorato explained, is currently in Afghanistan with the troops and so couldn't attend the Tuesday ceremony.


Onorato discussed the history of Veterans Day, beginning in World War I, and explained how that in 1958 President Dwight Eisenhower signed legislation to create the holiday.


“We should never forget our veterans' sacrifices,” said Onorato, noting that there are about 8,000 veterans in Lake County alone, and nearly 24 million nationwide.


He pointed to important recent developments for service members, including a 3.9-percent pay raise for active military and a new GI Bill to increase college funding for soldiers returning from service. There also have been increases in personnel to help returning military personnel with health and injury issues.


Thompson, himself a Vietnam vet, has worked on behalf of military members and veterans to help bring about these changes, Onorato noted.


Regarding the current situation in Iraq and the effort to bring home US soldiers, Onorato noted, “We must make sure that when we do bring them home they will be treated with respect.”


As Onorato left the stage two dozen 4-H Club members distributed handmade thank you cards to all the veterans in the room.


One of the cards read: "Dear Veteran, I wake up each morning free to make choices because of the sacrifices you have made. You have our gratitude." It was written by 9-year-old Jared Smith and delivered to his grandfather, Korean War-era veteran Milton Heath.

 

 

 

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Milton Health and his grandson, Jared Smith. Photo by Harold LaBonte.
 

 

 


Near the closing of the ceremony, Capt. Hughes surprised Lucerne resident and United Veterans Council member Frank Parker with the Veteran of the Year Award. Parker received a standing ovation along with the award, which is topped by a golden eagle.


At the closing, the Military Funeral Honors Team fired a rifle volley, which was accompanied by the playing of “Taps.”


Following the solemn event the community and its veterans sat down together to enjoy the annual barbecue that rounds out the morning ceremony.


E-mail Harold LaBonte at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 

 

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The United Veterans Council Military Funeral Honors Team waited outside the event to conduct their rifle volley. Photo by Harold LaBonte.
 

 

 

 

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More than 100 people attended the Tuesday ceremony, which was followed by a barbecue. Photo by Harold LaBonte.
 

 

 

 

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Nelson Hopper and wife, Earlene, at their home at the Big Valley Rancheria. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.

 



LAKE COUNTY – Nelson Hopper still remembers the war.


Some days, the 91-year-old World War II veteran says tears begin to run down his face, coming seemingly from nowhere. He said his war experience affects him a lot.


“I've seen some terrible things happen,” he said, which made him think differently about his life and the world.


Yet his recollections of the war aren't clouded by fear or sadness.


“I remember a lot of those things really clear. I can remember it still. It's never left my mind,” he said.


Born in February 1917, Hopper was raised on the Big Valley Rancheria.


On March 3, 1943, at age 26, Hopper was drafted into the US Army at the rank of private. He was shipped to Monterey and then to Camp Bowie, Texas, where he took his basic training, before being sent on to Fort Hood, Texas, to receive training as part of the 651st Tank Destroyer Battalion.


From there he was sent to Maryland and then put aboard the USS Marine Raven and sent to the European Theater.


He didn't make the Normandy Invasion; instead, he and fellow soldiers were sent to Scotland and then put on trains into England in May of 1944. A month later, they were sent by ship to Utah Beach in Franch. There, Hopper was placed in the Third Army, Fifth Division's infantry, under Gen. George Patton.


“I respected all those officers,” Hopper said of Patton and the other US war leaders. “They don't have them like that anymore.”


Hopper said he was afraid of dying in Europe, so far away from his home. He prayed every day and night, in his foxhole and as he went about his duties, asking to survive the war and get home safe. He said he promised to be a good person if he survived. “I live by that code, still.”


His grandmother called for a Big Head Dance to protect Hopper when he was first drafted, and another dance would be held after he was sent abroad.


While Hopper would survive the war to return to his family, they weren't left unscathed by the war. Hopper's uncle, Willie Holmes, died in Italy during the Battle of Anzio in January of 1944..


American Indians weren't segregated from other races in the Army during World War II, said Hopper, which is what happened to black soldiers.


Hopper became a squad leader, and said the men referred to him as “chief.” “I didn't mind that,” he said, adding that it was done in a friendly manner.


In fact, he said when many of his fellow soldiers discovered he was Indian, they treated him “like a king.”


During the terribly cold winter that began in late 1944, Hopper was in Germany, where he would shortly take part in the Battle of the Bulge.


He remembers an encounter with an elderly German man, who approached Hopper as he was burning wax paper from his K-rations to heat his coffee.


The German, who had gone to school in the United States, asked Hopper about his race, and Hopper replied he was an American Indian.


“This is not the Indian's war,” Hopper recalled the man saying. The man added that the US “took everything” from Indians.


Hopper said he told the man he was doing his duty and, when it was over, he looked forward to going home.


A short time later, in December of 1944, Hopper was wounded in the foot during the Battle of the Bulge.


Hopper said he didn't see many fellow American Indians while serving. However, it was a young American Indian medic who picked him up to take him to a field hospital after he was shot.


Not only was the medic Indian, he also was from the Lake County area. The medic's name was Bennett Elliott, who died at age 97 this past April. Hopper said Elliott would later remind him of their chance meeting, which Hopper said he hadn't initially recalled because he had been heavily medicated for pain.


Elliott took Hopper to a field hospital; from there, Hopper was sent to a hospital in Paris. During that time, he developed gangrene in his wounded foot and nearly lost his leg.


From Paris, Hopper was sent to a hospital in Birmingham, England, where he underwent spinal taps to deal with his swelling leg.


It would take him three months of hospitalization to recover, but even today he deals with the pain from that injury, which occasionally flares up in the form of pain and swelling.


In the spring of 1945, freshly released from the hospital, Hopper found himself once again headed back to France and then to Worms, Germany.


“By golly, the war ended while I was at Worms,” he said with a grin.


He found himself once again on the move, with the Army shipping him back to Marseilles, France. There, he was placed in the publications office. Hopper said he couldn't type and had no other publication-type skills initially, but they sent him to a 10-day school, where he learned to run a mimeograph machine.


But his service came to an end shortly afterward, as the war in Europe drew to a close.


“I feel, even to this day, that I had God on my side,” he said.


Placed aboard the hospital ship USS General Richardson, Hopper made his way home to the United States, landing in Boston after a 14-day sea crossing in a convoy of 74 ships, all of them zigzagging to avoid submarines.


“I was so happy to get back,” he said.


From Camp Miles Standish in Boston he was sent to Camp Beale in Marysville, where he was discharged. From there, he hitchhiked home to Lake County.


Initially, when he got home, Hopper said he didn't apply for disability due to his wounds. However, the Red Cross made application for him and he received a 10-percent disability determination. The Veterans Administration also did followup exams on his wounds in San Francisco.


He eventually went to work in Ukiah on the courthouse, and his foreman got him interested in becoming an ironworker, a job which took him to the Bay Area.


It was while climbing on a building project one day that he realized he was frightened of climbing, which hadn't happened to him before. That's when the Veterans Administration diagnosed him with what is known today as post traumatic stress disorder.


“'You have a problem and it's terrible,'” he recalled a VA doctor telling him.


“I still have it,” he added. “I'm scared even to this day.”


The same courage that took him through the war years went with him through the rest of his life. Hopper continued as an ironworker, eventually becoming a foreman and taking jobs around the state, including building underground missile silos at an Air Force base near Monterey.


He said he never let tough times get him down.


An opportunity came to go to South America for a dam project, but Hopper couldn't take his first wife with him, so he turned it down.


When he left the war behind, Hopper also left behind tokens of his service, in the form of his medals and awards, which he refused based on his Indian beliefs.


“We never do things to be praised for it,” he said. “We do it because it needs to be done.”


When he came home to Lake County, he joined the Joy Madeiros Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2015. In 1986, the VFW post went to the US government – without Hopper's knowledge – to ask for the medals on Hopper's behalf.


During the Veterans Day ceremony on Nov. 11, 1986, decades after he had left the medals behind, Hopper got a surprise. He was called to the podium and presented with his awards and medals.


“I almost fell over,” he said.


He received that day the Bronze Star for Valor; a Purple Heart for the wound he suffered at the Battle of the Bulge; an Army Good Conduct Medal; the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with four stars; the World War II Victory Medal; and the Combat Infantry Medal, which Hopper said he's proudest of, since it proves he was in combat.


Along with his medals, he received a letter from Superior Court Judge John J. Golden, congratulating him on his service.


This past May, an event was held to honor American Indian veterans, and Hopper was presented a flag and offered the event prayer. It was the first such occasion to specifically honor the contributions of American Indians to protect a country that is still very much theirs.


Today, Hopper has come full circle. He lives once again at Big Valley Rancheria with his wife, Earlene. The couple, married since 2000, live in a little house that looks out onto Clear Lake – or Xa-bahten, as it's known in the tribe's native language of Bahtssal, of which he's believed to be one of the last native speakers.


He has four children, two sons and two daughters, and numerous grandchildren, among them attorneys with Boalt School of Law degrees. His son, Joseph Myers, is executive director of the National Indian Justice Center, based in Santa Rosa.


Over the years, Hopper has taught young tribal members how to build tule boats and how to dance in and conduct ceremonies.


“I live here like I do because I'm an Indian,” he said. “I'm comfortable.”


While he jokes that he's been around “too damn long,” at 91 Hopper is still tall, active and optimistic.


“I'm shooting for 100, anyway,” he said.


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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LAKE COUNTY – As county residents have struggled with rising gas prices over the past year, they've found one attractive option to help pay less at the pump.


It's called public transit.


“We've had steady growth through the year,” said Mark Wall, transit manager for the Lake Transit Authority.


In the 2007-08 fiscal year, ridership grew by 8 percent in the first, quarter, 15 percent in the second, 20 percent in the third and in the fourth, 27 percent, said Wall.


Those increases were helped by a few factors, said Wall, including improved service on the transit authority's route one, which runs along Highway 20.


But the big jump came when gas prices began climbing steeply. “All of a sudden ridership really went through the roof,” he said.


As a comparison, he points to July 2008's ridership numbers, which hit 30,126, putting it at 45-percent above July 2007.


“Ridership is up particularly on any route that goes a long distance,” Wall said.


Big ridership changes were noted on route one along Highway 20 and the Northshore, which increased in passengers by 55 percent; route three from Calistoga to Middletown; route four, running between Clearlake and Lakeport on Highway 29; and route seven to Ukiah.


“The bad news was we were overbudget,” said Wall.


Rising fuel prices, which increased the numbers of people using the bus, also proved a primary cause of the budget overrun. Wall said the authority had planned to spent $289,000 on fuel for the year, but ran over by 16 percent, ending up at $333,800.


In the past year, the authority also changed contractors, with Laidlaw's contract ceasing in July of 2007, to be succeeded by Paratransit Services, said Wall. “It's been a much better situation this year with our new contractor.”


Wall, who also manages Del Norte County's transit authority, notes that bus ridership is up all over the state.


Lake County is on the high end, noted Wall, higher even than some urban areas when it comes to the increases in use it's seeing. That's because people move to transit services more when they live in areas where there are greater distance to travel.


Wall noted that Del Norte County is seeing even more new ridership than Lake, thanks to revisions in its transit system.


That's one big concern here in Lake County – how to make the service more available and useful to a wider range of customers.


“Over the years we've seen a wide variety of people who use the service, but most of them are low income,” he said.


However, Lake Transit recently conducted a ridership survey, said Wall. “We're getting people we've never heard from before.”


Employees in some county offices are using the transit to go to work, and Wall said Social Services now wants to sell monthly passes at their site.


Wall said they're working on a transit development plan, which includes adding more commuter-oriented runs on routes one along the Northshore and four, between Clearlake and Lakeport.


One way to expand the service is to add to its range of hours. Most routes run from 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, said Wall, with only one going until 8 p.m.


He said the authority has just applied for a grant to add morning and evening runs between Clearlake and Calistoga with connections to Lakeport, and an evening run between the Lakeport and Clearlake.


But the hope of expanding the service may be hampered by the state's raiding of transit assistance fund monies, which comes from sales tax. Those funds have been gobbled up by the state budget process the past two years, which Wall said will likely happen again this year.


“We're supposed to be receiving more money from state than likely to see,” said Wall.


Transit agencies all over the state want to expand their services but are being hampered because those funds are drying up, said Wall.


While Lake Transit would like to revise its services to meet greater demands, Wall said the process will have to move more slowly than they would like and will be predicated on the availability of money.


If gas prices remain high, Wall said he expects over the long term for transit to become more like it used to be, with more private ownership and less public subsidies.


In the mean time, Lake Transit is focusing on some small changes that can have big returns, such as having its service and routes added to Google's transit tracking service. They're also installing a new bus tracking system to see if buses are running on time, since late buses have proved a problem for the system.


They are planning for several new route changes next January and February, with a third bus route set for Clearlake, and modifications being considered for a few of the other routes as well, said Wall. If they get their grant, they may be able to run some routes more often, especially during commute times.


The eventual goal for route one along the Northshore, said Wall, is to have hourly bus runs. Those runs used to take four hours, and now are down to two.


In the fall of 2009, Lake Transit is aiming to add another Lakeport route, which will move from the city's northern area down to Konocti Vista Casino, looping through town and onto the freeway.


Wall added that Lake Transit is partnering with the Area Agency on Aging to do a senior transportation project between Clearlake Oaks and Spring Valley.


Another challenge for the future is enough buses, and the right kind of buses, to enable Lake Transit to meet its growing demands.


Lake Transit currently has 20 buses but it needs more, with two on order, said Wall, and three more, smaller buses also soon to be ordered. Depending on the state budget, more also could be purchased soon to both enlarge the fleet and replace aging buses.


Wall said the authority's buses are diesel. They're discussing other possible fuel alternatives as they look at the future, with hybrid vehicles offering promise. Hybrids using compressed natural gas tend to run between $400,000 and $500,000 for a new bus, compared to $200,000 for a new diesel bus, said Wall.


Biodiesel also might work if a consistent local or regional source were available. However, Wall added, “It's got a lot of problems for us to use.”


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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Members of the North Lake Garden Club at the unveiling of the new Blue Star Memorial By-Way marker in Nice on Tuesday, November 11, 2008. Photo by Harold LaBonte.
 



NICE – Thanks to the efforts of the North Lake Garden Club, Lake County has a new landmark honoring veterans which had its debut on Veterans Day.


The club unveiled the new Blue Star Memorial By-Way marker on Tuesday afternoon. It is located at Nice Triangle Parkway at Howard and Manzanita on Highway 20.


About 80 people – including numerous veterans, local dignitaries and members of the California Garden Club leadership – attended the 45-minute ceremony, which included bagpiper Karen Seydel of Ukiah and the Lake County United Veterans Council Military Funeral Honors Team, which posted the flags of the US and California alongside the marker.


North Lake Garden Club President Henry Bethel explained that the marker is a tribute to all men and women who have served in the US armed forces, are serving now or will serve in the future.


The community, Bethel said, needs “to build a future worthy of their sacrifice.”


County Public Service Director Kim Clymire, into whose care the monument was officially passed on Tuesday, welcomed the visitors to the newest addition to the county's park system. He also thanked veterans for keeping the community free “to enjoy this beautiful paradise we live in.”


Potter Valley Garden Club President Betty Lindvig shared the history of the Blue Star Memorial program, which the National Garden Clubs of America adopted in 1946 to honor World War II veterans. It has since been expanded to honor all armed forces members.


Lindvig said the garden club members visualized a living memorial to all veterans, with the idea being to dedicate memorial highways to veterans from coast to coast. They've accomplished that goal, with memorial highways now to be found in every state in the union, including Hawaii and Alaska. The first memorial highway was dedicated in New Jersey.


There are three types of Blue Star memorial markers, Lindvig said: the Blue Star Memorial Highway, Blue Star Memorial Marker and the Blue Star Memorial By-Way Marker.


The by-way marker, which is what is now found at Triangle Parkway, was introduced in 1981 for placement at state lines, entrances to towns, intersections and rest areas, she explained.


The blue star is a symbol first introduced on service flags during World War I. During World War II, it was common to see families with sons and daughters in the military hanging the blue star flags in the windows of their homes, Lindvig noted. The flags didn't have the same popularity during the Korean and Vietnam wars, but more recently they've begun to be seen once more.


The new by-way marker in Nice is the second Blue Star memorial to be established in Lake County, said Lindvig. The first, a Blue Star marker located next to the Lake County Courthouse Museum in Lakeport, was placed by the Clear Lake Trowel and Trellis Club and dedicated on Nov. 11, 1998, approximately 10 years ago.


In the Mendo-Lake Garden Club District as a whole, Lindvig noted there are a total of five Blue Star memorials. The others are located at the Botanical Gardens in Fort Bragg (by-way marker, dedicated Nov. 11, 1997); near the California Department of Forestry on Highway 101 (highway marker, dedicated Nov. 11, 2002 by the Willits Garden Club); and at Camp 20 Recreation Area of the Jackson Demonstration State Forest on Highway 20 (by-way marker, dedicated by the Mendo-Lake District on Nov. 11, 2006).


Robin Pokorski, president of the California Garden Clubs Inc., congratulated the North Lake Garden Club for its work and presented Bethel with a certificate in honor of the club's achievement.


Elijah Christopher of Lucerne, a Navy construction builder and second class petty officer BU2, recently returned from Iraq and was a guest of honor at the Tuesday ceremony.


Christopher, whose brother also was in Iraq while he was there, is the grandson of a World War II veteran. He recalled that his mother, Donna, keeps an article with his late grandfather's things that says those in the armed forces give the government a blank check for any amount, including their lives.


“I am lucky to be a Lake County serviceman,” said Christopher, adding his thanks to Operation Tango Mike for sending him care packages while he was overseas. He noted that he was happy to get back home to Lake County.


Pokorski and club member Gina-Belle Smith then removed a red, white and blue cloth that covered the brass Blue Star marker, which is affixed to large boulder at the park.


In officially passing the marker over to the county, the garden club's Blue Star chair, Sharon Thorne, noted that the marker couldn't have come to pass without the hard work of the club's 25 members, as well as support from the district and state garden clubs. Club members then placed flowers next to the marker.


District 3 Supervisor Denise Rushing thanked veterans on behalf of a grateful community for their work to protect the country and democracy.


She urged everyone to fight for their freedoms every day.


“I don't think democracy comes as something that is static, I think it's something we have to work at,” she said.


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 

 

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Elijah Christopher, recently home from service in Iraq, spoke at the ceremony on Tuesday, November 11, 2008. Photo by Harold LaBonte.
 

 

 

 

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A close up of the newly unveiled marker. Photo by Harold LaBonte.
 

 

 


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KELSEYVILLE – If you have ever travelled down Sylar Lane in Kelseyville it’s pretty likely that you are familiar with William “Hukk” Hukkanen. He’s an iconic figure in the little town as he sits in his rocking chair on his front porch giving passers by a wave or nod.


William B. Hukkanen was born in Kelseyville in December 1923 at the Allison house, which stood where the telephone building is now. This proud veteran will celebrate his 85th birthday in December.


Every day he sits on the front porch of the home he has lived in since 1926, enjoying the outdoors and the friendly waves from folks. Don’t think for a minute that is the extent of his day though.


“Hukk,” as he likes to be called, works a large garden, chops wood and cooks his own meals. He remains very active, reads voraciously and is not shy about sharing his opinion. At nearly 85 years old and having served his country, he’s earned that right.


Hukk joined the United States Navy in August 1942. He was anxious to serve his country and defend her after the attack on Pearl Harbor. While in the Navy, Hukk served aboard several ships before he was discharged in December 1945 and returned to his home town of Kelseyville.

 

 

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Some time ago he composed a synopsis of his time in the Navy, which follows.


“Well, they went and did it – bombed Pearl Harbor about 1300 or 1400 hours Pacific Time. I was not too shocked because I had figured out that we would go to war with Japan. As soon as I could get a ride, I went to the Santa Rosa Navy Recruiting Station, about 50 miles away from my home. I enlisted in the Navy, but they sent me home to finish high school and told me they would call me when needed. At present, they had more people than they knew what to do with.


“They called me in August 1942 to the Naval Recruiting Station in San Francisco and sent me to boot camp at NTS San Diego. In October 1942, I reported to the USS South Dakota (BB-57) and served in her through the battle of Santa Cruz in October and Savo Island in November in the Solomon Islands.


“In December1942 I transferred to the USS McCawley (APA-4) and served in her while hauling troops and cargo and making landings in the Solomon Islands. She was sunk in the Blanche Strait near Rendova Island in June 1943 and I was transferred to the USS President Hayes (APA-20). I served in her hauling troops and cargo and was coxswain on a Higgins boat in the first wave when we made landings in Bougainville. We also made the landing on Emary Island before I was transferred back to the US in April 1944 for 30 days leave and to work on the construction of a new ship.


“I reported aboard the USS Bering Strait (AVP-34) in July 1944 at Kirkland Shipyard in Seattle and our shakedown cruise was to Pearl Harbor. We then took part in the invasion of the Marshalls, Gilberts and Saipan, as well as working air sea rescue for the B-29s bombing Japan. Working as a coxswain or bow hook on a rescue vessel, we picked up five crews from the ocean.


“I returned to the US and was transferred to the USS Tamalpais (AO-96) in May 1945. After a shakedown cruise, we spent time in the Marshalls, Gilberts, Admiralty Islands and then on to the occupation of Japan.

 

 

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William Hukkanen as a young man, during his service in the Navy in World War II. Courtesy photo.
 

 

 


“In summation of my time in the Navy, I would probably have reenlisted if it hadn’t gotten so chicken after the war was over. We got a bunch of 90-day wonders who were constantly trying to tell me how to do my seamanship after I had served in five ships. I loved my ships with the mother image they portrayed and the great crews. I served with some of the best skippers in the fleet and a couple not so good. I did some time on bread and water and stood before the mast and had a blast in the Navy.


“I came out of the Navy with 10 Battle Stars on my Pacific Ribbons and two Ship Citations from the Secretary of the Navy. When I go “deep six” I will say, “Boy, am I glad I did that!” If this sounds a little salty, well I was, and I still am!


“My son is helping me write a book on my time in the Navy. It’s good reading for sailors because they understand what I am about. They say, “Once a jarhead, always a jarhead.” Once a blue water sailor, always a sailor.”


Hukkanen earned several awards during his naval service. He does not brag but is tremendously proud of his service, the men he served with and especially of those who never made it home.


His awards include the Combat Action Ribbon, the Navy Good Conduct Medal, the Navy Unit Citation with two stars, the Asiatic Pacific Campaign Medal with 10 stars, the World War II Victory Medal and the Navy Occupation Service Medal (Japan).


When he shows you his awards he talks with sincerity and his voice cracks and eyes water when he remembers the men who gave their all, never to return to their families.


Hukkanen was married twice and currently lives with his two dogs, Sally and Scooter. On relationships with women he says, “I learned a long time ago not to argue with women. That’s a fight you can’t win.”


His son, Sam, is employed at the Kelseyville Fire Department and his daughter, Kristine, lives in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin.


As for life today he said, “'Generation gap’ is an older person’s excuse ‘cause they can’t communicate.” He mentioned that he chats with the kids walking past his porch and shows an interest in them, something he believes matters in their lives.


Hukk also believes people have lost focus on what really matters. He said, “People want more than they can get. That’s why we’re in such trouble.”


As for him, Hukk says, “My life has been a helluva good ride. I never hurt nobody, that I know of.”


He added, “I could go outta here tomorrow and I’d be OK. If you live with a fear of death you’ll be scared your whole life.”


Ginny Craven is the founder of Operation Tango Mike. On Veterans Day 2007 she received the annual “Friend of the Veteran Award.” Craven lives in Kelseyville.


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LAKEPORT – The Lake County Planning Commission will consider projects including a telecommunications tower and two requests regarding subdivisions at its next meeting this week.


The meeting will begin at 9 a.m. on Thursday, Nov. 13, in the board chambers at the Lake County Courthouse, 255 N. Forbes, Lakeport.


At 9:05 a.m., the commission will hold a public hearing to consider a mitigated negative declaration based on initial study for a major use permit.


Peacock Associates Inc./Metro PCS has applied for the project, and proposes replacing a 120-foot guy wired lattice tower with a new 120-foot self-supporting lattice tower. The project is located at 9280 Konocti Road, Kelseyville.


South Lake County Fire Protection District has applied to purchase an approximately 13,720 square foot parcel to use as a parking lot at 15476 Graham St. A public hearing will be held on the proposal at 9:40 a.m.


At 9:45 a.m., a public hearing will take place to consider a mitigated negative declaration based on initial study for a parcel map. Glen Rolfe has applied to renew an expired tentative parcel map to subdivide approximately 15.76 acres located at 1000 Robin Hill Road in Lakeport in order to create three parcels.


The Vintage Faire subdivision also will be on the Thursday agenda and the subject of a 10:10 a.m. public hearing for considering of a subsequent negative declaration based on initial study for general plan of development.


De Nova Homes is proposing a one-year time extension of the subdivision's general development plan; the proposed project is located at 20740 and 20830 State Highway 29, Middletown.


The final public hearing of the day is set for 10:40 a.m. The hearing will be for an administrative appeal (AA 08-03) of the Community Development Department's determination to deny issuance of a Certificate of Compliance.


The appellant is Edwin Rohner, proposing a Certificate of Compliance on their parcel after a lot line adjustment was recorded that appears to have erased any underlying parcels of record. The project is located at 5087 State St., Kelseyville.


Planning Commissioners include Monica Rosenthal, District 1; Gary Briggs, District 2; Clelia Baur, District 3; Cliff Swetnam, District 4; and Gil Schoux, District 5.


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PG&E workers repair a power pole in Lucerne on Tuesday, November 11, 2008. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.
 



LUCERNE – A vehicle crashing into a power pole left thousands of customers without power for much of the morning on Tuesday as Pacific Gas and Electric staff worked to repair the damage.


PG&E reported that the outage occurred just after 1:30 a.m. Tuesday.


A loud crash was heard through town as the vehicle collided with the pole. In some areas of town, the lights blinked off, came back on and then went out again.


Northshore Fire and the Lake County Sheriff's Office responded to the crash area, located on the east side of Highway 20 between 10th and 11th avenues. No injuries were reported.


Shortly before 2 a.m., sheriff's deputies were blocking the eastbound lane and directing traffic around the crash scene and the damaged pole.


For several hours officials diverted traffic through the middle turn lane while PG&E repaired the pole, the crossarms of which appeared to require replacement.


Highway 20 wasn't completely reopened until about 12:35 p.m., according to the California Highway Patrol. Even then, 10th Avenue was still closed due to pole repairs.


PG&E spokesperson Brandi Ehlers said 3,233 customers were impacted.


Power returned to some areas of town at around 2:30 a.m., with residents in other areas reporting that their power was off until 11 a.m. Ehlers said power was restored to all customers shortly after 1:30 p.m., 12 hours after the outage first occurred.


PG&E staff remained on scene until evening as they continued restoring the damaged power pole.


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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WASHINGTON, D.C. On Monday, two groups representing thousands of American veterans, Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) and Veterans of Modern Warfare (VMW), announced that they have filed a lawsuit against the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).


The lawsuit, which was filed in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, seeks to end the unconscionable delays experienced by veterans when applying for disability benefits. VVA and VMW seek immediate action to prevent further irreparable harm to our nation's veterans.


VVA has a local chapter, 951, that serves the county's large Vietnam veteran population.


The lawsuit demands that the VA provide an initial decision on every veteran's claim for disability benefits within 90 days and resolve appeals within 180 days.


Additionally, the veterans groups ask that the Court grant further relief in the form of interim benefits awards in the event that the VA exceeds these minimum standards of constitutionally-guaranteed due process. These interim benefits will provide veterans with a lifeline of support when it is most needed to facilitate reintegration into their lives back home.


"The failure to expedite veterans' compensation claims creates, at best, the impression that the nation does not respect its veterans," said John Rowan, National President, Vietnam Veterans of America. "America's veterans deserve more, and the VA's failure to fulfill its responsibilities brings dishonor to our nation and can only make the call of military service more challenging."


The VA acknowledges that it takes an average of at least six months to reach an initial decision on an average benefits claim; the actual delay is closer to a year.


Appeals of these initial decisions, which are reversed more than 50 percent of the time, take, on average, more than four years, with some stretching 10 years or more. In contrast, private health care plans – which process more than 30 billion claims a year – process claims and related appeals in less than three months.


"As a matter of both policy and practice, the VA subjects veterans to long delays before receiving any of the benefits to which they are entitled," said Donald Overton, executive director, Veterans of Modern Warfare. "Our hope is that this lawsuit will compel the VA to process veterans' benefits claims more quickly and honor our nation's commitment to those that have defended and served."


"All veterans will benefit significantly from the legal action of VVA and VMW," said Robert Cattanach, partner, Dorsey and Whitney. "The intervention of VVA and VMW is necessary because under federal law individual veterans are not allowed to access the judicial system. Dorsey and Whitney is committed to helping America's veterans quickly secure the benefits they have earned from the VA."


There are approximately 25 million veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces alive today. More than 7 million of those veterans are enrolled in the VA's health care system, and approximately 3.4 million veterans receive benefits.


More than 600,000 VA benefits claims are backlogged – this number will only increase as the 1.7 million troops that have served in Iraq and Afghanistan continue to return home.


"A soldier's transition to civilian life is challenging. The VA's failure to diagnose PTSD promptly and accurately, and the corresponding delay in the award of benefits, plainly results in veterans being denied this critical lifeline," said Dr. Charles R. Figley, PTSD expert and author, of Tulane University. "VVA and VMW's lawsuit will help to reduce this additional and, in many cases, unmanageable stress for veterans."


According to the VA, the suicide rate among individuals in the VA's care may be as high as 7.5 times the national average. Delays in awarding benefits to America's veterans increases the suffering of individuals already struggling with an inability to cope, as the seemingly endless wait for the VA to make a final decision on a claim magnifies the alienation and anxiety that they experience.


For example, the inability to provide basic subsistence support significantly impacts a veteran's ability to maintain economic stability, seek and gain employment, provide and sustain a home, or care for a family. As a consequence, there is a substantial increase in the number of broken families, cases of homelessness and depression caused by the failure to provide disability benefits on a timely basis.


Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) is the nation's only congressionally chartered veterans service organization dedicated to the needs of Vietnam-era veterans families, as well as to the needs of other veterans and their families. VVA's founding principle is "Never again will one generation of veterans abandon another." Visit the VVA online at www.vva.org.


Veterans of Modern Warfare (VMW) is a veterans service organization dedicated to serving our nation's most recent war veterans. Its purpose is to support veterans and their families by providing education and information about the benefits America's veterans have earned, assistance in obtaining benefits, advocacy in issues important to our generation, and camaraderie through locally based, national chapters. Visit the VMW online at http://vmwusa.org.


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LAKE COUNTY – A vehicle fire on Highway 175 Sunday night resulted in a temporary shutdown of the highway.


The California Highway Patrol reported an Audi was on fire on Highway 175 at mile marker 83 just before 9 p.m.


The driver was reported to be clear of the car and was not said to be injured, the CHP reported. The CHP did not identify the driver.


The roadway was shut down shortly before 9:30 p.m. as officials responded to the situation.


The CHP did not report in its incident log when the highway was reopened.


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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