News Columns & Blogs

We don't grasp the responsibilities we give people in uniform

While we suffer the morons back home making death threats to congressmen who voted to reform America's broken health care system, thousands of young men and women are overseas working to make the world a better place.

No, I’m not talking about the Peace Corps or missionaries or other volunteers, although those are noble endeavors.

I’m referring to the soldiers and airmen of the U.S. military stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan, like 2003 North Thurston High School graduate Lt. Ian Norton.

After high school, Norton went on to Gonzaga where he earned a degree and a military officer’s commission in 2007. He serves as a 1st lieutenant and detachment commander with the 877th Engineer Battalion, a National Guard engineering unit, which is deployed at Bagram Army Air Base and also at FOB Shank in Afghanistan. He’s been there for 10 months.

According to Norton’s father, Patrick, that’s not all he does.

On top of his day-to-day engineering duties at Bagram, Norton is spending much of his spare time performing humanitarian service. After his daily shifts, he voluntarily clears away land mines that are killing the Afghan people.

Since the Soviet occupation, land mines remain a daily fear for the Afghan people. Throughout 2009, mines and explosive remnants of war injured or killed an average of 46 Afghans every month.

Norton, along with the Mine Action Center, a joint United Nations and Afghanistan government operation funded by many countries, including the United States, are lessening that threat for an already oppressed people.

In his spare time, Norton builds computers from scrap materials so the men in his platoon can communicate with their relatives back home. He’s also made time to work toward his masters degree in information technology management, specializing in digital forensics while in Afghanistan.

Norton’s father says, “I don’t think most people understand the responsibilities we give our young people in uniform.”

His parents, and all Americans, should be proud of 24-year-olds like 1st Lt. Ian Norton, who is making Afghanistan a safer place for its people who work in the soil.


Next fall, The Washington Center for the Performing Arts will begin its 25th season of bringing world-class entertainment to Thurston County.

To celebrate the event, we’d like to hear from you about your fondest memories of The Washington Center.

As a child, did you perform on its stage with your dance class? Did you take your spouse there on a first date? What was your favorite performance? What remains your most memorable experience at the Washington Center, and why?

Send us about 200 words that we can publish in a commemorative special edition in time for the Silver Gala kickoff to the center’s 2010-11 season. Send them to: Memories, The Olympian, P.O. Box 407, Olympia, WA 98507 or e-mail me at  .


Another Thurston County young person doing great things is Kellee Keegan, daughter of Chris and Denise Keegan of Olympia. She’s in the Peace Corps, helping to build a library for Cambodian children. ... Lee Wojnar, vice-president of marketing for O Bee Credit Union recently accepted the national Dora Maxwell Award on behalf of the company in Washington D.C. Dora Maxwell was a pioneer in the American credit union movement, developing credit unions to improve the living standards of the poor and needy. O Bee won the award for its involvement in projects and activities that have had a positive social effect on our community. ... Ralph Munro, Brian Vance, Michael Cade and Lori Drummond became the latest members of America’s Edge in Olympia. It’s the organization of business leaders supporting efforts to improve early childhood education because of the favorable effect it has on the economy.

George Le Masurier, publisher of The Olympian, can be reached at 360-357-0206 or at