Northwest Digest

Posted: Monday, July 16, 2007

Memorial service held for Alaska soldier

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PORTLAND, Ore. - A soldier who died in the Iraq war was remembered this weekend as a single mother who struggled to provide a better life for her two young sons, and a woman who found a sense of direction in the Army.

Michelle Ring, 26, was killed July 5 by mortar fire while on guard duty in Baghdad. She was born in Portland and grew up in McMinnville before her family moved to Alaska in the 1990s.

About 40 family and friends attended Saturday's service in the amphitheater of Willamette National Cemetery.

A tomboy who loved hunting and four-wheeling, Ring dropped out of high school. Her first love was a soldier at Fort Richardson in Alaska, who was killed in a fight while she was pregnant with her first son, a friend told the Anchorage Daily News. After her baby was born, Ring moved to Tennessee, where she married briefly, had her second son and worked in two factory jobs.

When she enlisted in the Army in August 2005, she was looking for a path to a better life for herself and her sons. Ring had re-enlisted just weeks ago and was hoping to become a military police officer.

Lt. Col. Leonard Cosby, a member of Ring's battalion who is headed back to Iraq next week, said she exemplified the qualities of a good soldier.

"The soldiers of the battalion I represent are better for having known your daughter," he said.

In 2006, she was assigned to the 92nd Military Police Battalion in Fort Benning, Ga., then shipped out to Iraq, where she worked as a petroleum specialist in the motor pool.

"She was not your typical girl," said Master Sgt. Ronald Barnes, reading the memories of one of Ring's battalion members in Iraq. "She was never afraid to get her hands dirty and get the task done, no matter what it was."

Ring is survived by her sons, Marc, 7, and Brandon, 5; her parents, John and Shirley Stearns of McMinnville; and her sisters, Karen Harbuck of Wasilla, Alaska, and Marilyn Haybeck of McMinnville.

At Saturday's memorial service, a representative for Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski presented Ring's mother and her sons with state coins and state flags. They also received Ring's military decorations, including a Bronze Star, Purple Heart and Good Conduct Medal.

Man pleads guilty to poached sheep theft

SALT LAKE CITY - A man who illegally killed an Alaskan Dall sheep ten years ago and then stole its head from wildlife officials this winter has pleaded guilty to theft and attempted burglary charges.

Wade Hanks, 37, agreed to pay $6,000 in fines in a plea Friday that will be held in abeyance for a year.

Salt lake County Deputy District Attorney Vincent Meister said the plea deal matched the crime, which he said amounted to a spur-of-the-moment lapse in judgment by Hanks.

Hanks was working a booth at a hunting expo in January when he came across the mounted sheep's head on the wildlife agency's anti-poaching "Wall of Shame," Meister said.

Hanks and a friend, who also pleaded guilty to theft and burglary charges, stole the head while a wildlife worker stepped away. The two men were caught on surveillance camera.

Donated salmon to be served at schools

DILLINGHAM - Bristol Bay sockeye salmon has seldom, if ever, appeared on school lunch trays in Dillingham. Over the years, this has troubled Patty Luckhurst, the school's lunch chief.

Yet getting locally produced food on the school lunch menu is a cumbersome process. There are U.S. Department of Agriculture rules, and logistics, too: a product's arrival must be timed just so.

In a strange twist in the pipeline that distributes federal school lunch commodities, the fish most available for Dillingham students' lunch trays has been a farm-raised rainbow trout. That's right: farmed fish on youngsters' lunch trays in the wild salmon watershed of Bristol Bay.

But there's a plan in the works to put Bristol Bay sockeye on the plates of Dillingham students twice a week.

"It's just a win-win situation," Luckhurst said. "And the kids like it. Kids out in Bristol Bay and in the rural communities are accustomed to eating fish. When we have fish, kids always come back for seconds."

When school resumes this fall, Dillingham students may be asking for seconds of local sockeye thanks to an agreement between the school district, Peter Pan Seafoods, and the local commercial fishing fleet.

This month, Peter Pan Seafoods will designate a tender boat that will receive fishermen's donated fish. The Peter Pan cannery general manager, Norman Van Vactor, said the cannery will process up to 8,000 pounds of sockeye - which translates to about 4,000 pounds of fresh, frozen sockeye fillets.

Van Vactor said it's a way for the state's longest-running cannery to give something back to its community.

"We like to think we're a part of the community and that the community is a part of us," Van Vactor said.

Dillingham superintendent Arne Watland said fishermen donating salmon will receive a letter of acknowledgment from the school and a receipt for the charitable contribution.

"We're happy to be a part of it," he said.

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