News

Gov. Locke visits base, shows support

Gov. Gary Locke dined at Whidbey Island Naval Air Station Tuesday, the latest stop on his round of bases state-wide in support of troops.

Locke was joined at the head table in the officers’ club by Capt. Stephen Black, Rear Admiral Hering from Navy Region Northwest, Maj. Gen. Timothy Lowenberg, and state representatives Dave Quall, Mount Vernon, and Jeff Morris, Anacortes.

Locke was there to spread a message of gratitude and support for the men and women in the military.

“On behalf of all the people of the state of Washington, thank you very much,” he said.

Locke noted there were a lot of people his age who hadn’t served in the armed forces, and take for granted the peace and prosperity the military affords them.

He offered his total support for the forces in Iraq, and said that in spite of differences of opinion about the war, everyone should now join him in that support.

“We all wish for the men and women to come home quickly, safely, and with few casualties,” he said.

He also reminded the officers that the U.S. did not have a quarrel with the people of Iraq, and he prayed for their safety as well.

In questions from the diners, Capt. Black asked the governor if he thought people were being unrealistic in thinking the war would be over soon.

Locke cited the huge jump in the stock market when war broke out as a sign of false optimism.

“None of us should be placing bets on how long this war will last,” Locke said. “We’re not proceeding on a magic formula or publicity-driven time line.” He asked that people have patience, and trust the leaders in the field.

“This is still a war,” he said. “Even with all the technology, nothing is perfect.”

On homeland security issues, Locke felt the states were not being adequately reimbursed. He said Washington had expected $75 million to $80 million in federal Homeland Security funding, but is only getting $11 million. Still he was optimistic funding would come through, saying the money has already been spent by local agencies.

If funding comes up short, agencies will have to make cuts in other areas, he said.

Locke had his strongest words for Petty Officer 1st Class Rich Mueller, who stood up to say it “chapped my hide” that money was being spent on law enforcement to police protesters.

“I believe they have the right to do that, but they’re hurting all of us in the long run,” Mueller said.

Gov. Locke replied that was the price of freedom.

“That’s what this country is all about — freedom of expression,” Locke said. “It’s what you put your life on the line for. If we don’t allow that expression, how are we different from the countries we are fighting?”

Mueller later said when both sides, protesters and war supporters, feel passionately about their cause, emotions can run high and block out common sense. It is then that trouble can erupt at protests, causing the need for increased police, and increased costs to pay for them. He said he would like to see more control on both sides.

“We can agree to disagree,” he said. “I would throw my life down to defend their right to protest.”

Gov. Locke also toured the base, which is eerily quiet with most Prowler squadrons deployed.

You can reach News-Times reporter Marcie Miller at mmiller@whidbeynewstimes.com or call 675-6611

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