News

Sailor's brother killed in Iraq

Good Samaritans have set up an account at Whidbey Island Bank to help Petty Officer 1st Class Olin West and his family attend the funeral of his brother who was killed in Iraq.

Olin, who is stationed at Whidbey Island Naval Station, said his brother, Staff Sgt. James West, and another soldier were killed in a traffic accident in Iraq July 11 when the vehicle he was in struck a truck head-on during a blinding sand storm.

James West, father of two, and all the other men and women in the Army’s 1st Battalion, 94th Field Artillery, were in Iraq for more than two years, which was one of the longest serving companies in the war-torn nation. He had also served in Kuwait during the first Gulf War.

Olin said his brother was overjoyed that they were finally leaving Iraq and Bagdad International Airport, where he was stationed. James was originally a tank mechanic, but was involved in missions as escort, gunner, and convoy security.

James had been bored at the airport and joked about counting the number of mortar shells that exploded in the grounds for fun. The record, according to Olin, was five in one day.

One thing James did to pass his time in Iraq was to maintain his personal Web site at www.geocities.com/

wildwest170/. While James didn’t like Iraq much, Olin said his brother “was proud of what he was doing.”

James and his fellow soldiers were on their way to their base in Germany the day the fatal accident occurred.

“His family was looking forward to him coming home,” Olin said. “He was planning to go home to take his youngest to kindergarten for the first time.”

James West’s funeral will be in upstate New York, where his wife and family live. Olin said he and his three remaining brothers, as well as a cousin who was James’ best friend, are having difficulty trying to get together funds to travel to the funeral. Most of the immediate family lives in Colorado and have endured hard economic times.

To help with travel expenses, an account was set up in the name “The Family of Olin West” at any branch of Whidbey Island Bank.

Oak Harbor Mayor Patty Cohen supports the effort. “This is a time when we can, through our financial support, show our gratitude to the young men and women who risk their lives every day to protect our freedom, and the families who suffer the loss of loved ones,” she said.

In the final line on James West’s Web page, he wrote “enjoy life, it truly is too short sometimes.”

You can reach News-Times reporter Jessie Stensland at jstensland@whidbeynewstimes.com or call 675-6611.

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