This past Fathers Day, me and my dad, former Oak Harbor mayor Al Koetje, sat down and talked about what Naval Air Station Whidbey means to Oak Harbor and Coupeville.
The Navy arrived in Oak Harbor in 1942. My Dad was 12. I commend my dad for his valiant efforts and dedication to keeping the Navy there. It has been essential for the economic growth of Oak Harbor and Whidbey Island.
In 1972, when dad started his first term as mayor, he formed a task force to keep the Navy in Oak Harbor. He worked tirelessly with this group for 30-plus years to maintain Navy presence. It started as combined efforts with U.S. Sen. Henry “Scoop” Jackson. I remember him coming to our house. He then took the issue to Washington, D.C. to senators Patty Murray, Maria Cantwell and U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, who all championed this cause along with many state legislators. One success was NAS Whidbey acquiring the P-3 aircraft. The air base in Alameda, Calif. was closed as a result and not NAS Whidbey.
I encourage those who take issue with “the noise” to salute the sound of freedom and, therefore, the economic opportunities provided in Oak Harbor and Coupeville for decades. Listen to my dad, or one of the other dedicated task force members throughout the years.
Thank you, dad, for your dedication, for not only keeping Oak Harbor vital, but keeping our nation protected.
Alana Koetje Morris
Oak Harbor High School class of 1975