In response to Growler expansion at NAS Whidbey | Letter

Mullis Center denounces flag

The Mullis Center Operations Committee has decided to discontinue the practice of honoring the American flag at the majority of Senior Lunches, served twice weekly, at the Mullis Center.

Recognition of the American flag is a common thread across America, especially at a time when our country is so politically divided. The flag is a symbol of our heritage and an honor to those who have served and given their lives for the freedoms we enjoy.

Evidently, disrespectful individuals live amongst us, and tear apart at the fabric that has been the strength and unity of our culture.

Also, please note that the American flag has not been flown on the Mullis Center flagpole for the past several years.

Patriotism is not a bad word!

Gordon Fowler

San Juan Island

Response to flag flying concerns

This letter is in response to a petition asking for a reconsideration of the decision to eliminate the practice of saying the Pledge of Allegiance at the Senior Meals Program lunches at the Mullis Center.

After receiving complaints, we have come to realize that many island seniors are not comfortable with our practice of saying a prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance prior to the meal. In exploring this matter, we discovered that, as far as we could tell, we have been the only senior center in the area that has had such a practice.

Our decision to eliminate this practice was made to better fulfill our mission to serve ALL seniors on San Juan Island without regard to race, color, creed, religion or national origin, gender, sexual orientation or disability. The decision does not have anything to do with religion or patriotism. We certainly do not intend to disrespect veterans or the flag.

The program receives federal funding, as well as funding from nongovernmental sources, that requires we be open to all. Regarding the use of the pledge, the Mullis Center is not a legislative body engaged in the people’s business, nor are we a patriotic organization where the pledge is central to its functions. It’s just lunch. You don’t say the Pledge of Allegiance at a restaurant.

The Operations Committee met in response to the petition and adopted a policy that Senior Meals will include the pledge on special occasions where it is appropriate such as patriotic holidays and any other day when the pledge is appropriate to that occasion. (If we are closed on those days, the pledge will occur at the lunch closest to that date.)

Participation in the pledge is a matter of personal choice and entirely voluntary. No one should feel pressured to stand or to say the pledge.

As we move to offering meals three times a week, we hope you will join us in welcoming ALL seniors on the island to participate. Please bring a friend to lunch and reach out to newcomers who join us!

Rita Weisbrod

Chair, Mullis Center Operations Committee

Response to Growler guest column

This letter response to your March 21 guest column, “Navy announces massive Growler expansion” (that ran in the Islands’ Weekly).

The column is mostly standardized points published elsewhere, by other people. It promotes a disparaging view of our area, which is not validated by objective measures or by objective personal experience.

There is no “massive Growler expansion.”

Even with 118 jets, the EA-18G “Growler” community is small and specialized. Their capability and expertise at protecting American aircraft and ground forces are peerless.

Nearly every other U.S. combat jet community is significantly larger, by orders of magnitude. Also, 216 carrier jets used to fly from the 75-year-old air station complex. This is roughly 100 jets more than what was recently decided.

The column is an example of a protracted effort to portray the Puget Sound region as supposed “collateral damage” due to the Navy, to anyone and any publication which will listen.

In contrast to the negative messaging, Island and San Juan counties are as upbeat and prosperous as they have ever been. Our schools, economies, real estate, parks and wildlife are all flourishing.

For instance, tourism has dramatically increased since Growlers began flying here 10 years ago. Tourist spending in San Juan County is up over 75 percent (2010-2017). Deception Pass traffic, adjacent to the Whidbey base, rose 25 percent during the last two years.

The “massive” column is especially interesting, since Lopez will see reduced impacts from carrier landing practice. Additionally, San Juan County is a primary beneficiary of the exceptional Navy rescue and medevac capabilities, which are tied directly to Growlers. Recent efforts include Lopez and Orcas Islands.

Please note, there are not thousands of people opposed to Growlers, there is only a specific, narrowly defined demographic. They are welcome to their personal disposition, but they are at odds with the vibrancy of our area and the outstanding service provided by the young men and women of our Navy.

Since 1902, the Navy League of the United States is a nonpartisan, worldwide organization, dedicated to informing the American people about the importance of Sea Services to our national defense and economic prosperity.

Steve Bristow

Spokesperson, Oak Harbor Navy League