A lot of Nevadans are thinking about the troops | NevadaAppeal.com

A lot of Nevadans are thinking about the troops

by barry Ginter

Yes, it’s starting to feel like Christmas. There’s snow in the mountains, traffic jams in mall parking lots and galaxies of Christmas lights in Carson City’s neighborhoods.

It’s nothing like Baghdad or the rest of Iraq, where thousands of U.S. military members will spend the holidays.

I used the Internet to check the current weather in Baghdad on Wednesday. It was 46 degrees with “smoke.” It doesn’t say whether that smoke was from chimneys or exploding cars and buildings, but either way, Christmas is probably the furthest thing from the minds of the troops.

That’s where hundreds of people from Northern Nevada come into play. Entire classrooms have been making cards and writing letters, while other groups have been adopting Marines and soldiers.

Among them was Our Lady of Tahoe Church at Zephyr Cove. Francie Alling, coordinator of the church’s outreach program, came up with the idea to send cards, and it was embraced by the religious education class. Children from families that came to the church for its food outreach program also wrote letters.

“We really wanted kids to be more socially responsible,” she said. “We’re just trying to think of others at this time of year.”

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The result was dozens of cards with notes such as, ” Thank you for serving America and for all you have done. Also make sure you have a wonderful holiday,” and “You are doing such a wonderful job. I hope you have a great Christmas. I love knowing our country is safe.”

Their cards are only a drop in a river of those being readied to send to troops in the war zone. Other groups working toward the same goal include Blue Star Moms and the Web of Support Soldier Adoption Program.

Members of Blue Star Moms will be sending out thousands of messages on Monday that they’ve been collecting this year.

P.J. Degross, founder of Web of Support, said when she first moved to Carson City in 2002, she found there was little being done to recognize the troops and translated that into a group that has 260 members from around the country. She’s retired, at age 64, but works seven days a week coordinating soldier adoptions and other ways to send support. The program has 180 adopted soldiers now, but that number is always fluctuating as deployments change.

Her Web site, http://www.webofsupport.com, details many examples of the support people are showing for the armed forces. Degross said she’s constantly rewarded with an ever-growing family of grateful troops. Recently, she talked for 90 minutes on the phone with one of her adopted soldiers. This week she’ll be picking up hundreds of cards and letters from area schools that will be sent to Iraq.

There’s still time for you to help before the holidays, she said.

One way is to take part in a gift collection by the Reno Fire Department. It will be Saturday at all Reno Fire Department stations from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m., but the one closest to Carson City is at Fire Station 16 at 1240 East Lake Boulevard in Washoe Valley. Appropriate items include DVDs, CDs, new books, hand-held games, batteries, individually wrapped candy, lotions and skin care products, sports items and other easy-to-ship products.

If you’d like information on other ways to help, e-mail Degross at pjdahling@aol.com. Blue Star Moms’ Web site is http://www.bluestarmoms.org. Locally, e-mail can be sent to bluestarmoms@charter.net, or you can call 232-3379.

The status of the war in Iraq is being compared often to the Vietnam War. Those comparisons are up for debate, but it’s fortunate that one lesson from Vietnam seems to have stuck: Those people willing to sacrifice their lives for their country deserve our respect and support, whether you agree with the mission or not.

•••

Willy Webb, who owns the Genoa Bar, better known to some as “Nevada’s oldest thirst parlor,” has installed a cigarette smoke-removal system. It’s basically a huge blower that quietly exchanges the smoky air with fresh outside air.

People will still be able to smoke in the famous bar; it’s just that the smoke won’t linger as it had in the past. Webb figured that many smokers driven out of other establishments by the smoking law approved by voters on Nov. 7 (the law will prohibit smoking in bars that serve food) will come to his bar, which does not serve food. They’re welcome, he said, but at the same time, he didn’t relish the smoky haze, which was already prevalent at busy times in the bar.

“It drives me out of there sometimes,” he said.

The new system will make it harder to heat the old building, but it’s an easy problem to solve.

“I’ll just throw another log on the fire,” he said.

Smoking opponents would be quick to tell you that such systems don’t remove the risks associated with secondhand smoke, but Webb said it does create clear air that’s easier to breathe, and that’s what he was going for.

Webb said the system doesn’t change the look or sound of the historic building, and that’s a priority in any change he makes to the bar. In fact, he’s modernized in other areas as well, such as adding automated soda guns for the bartenders, rather than having them pour from soda cans.

“The changes I made are all the stuff you don’t see,” he said.

The bar is a popular destination for people visiting the area, and has hosted such dignitaries as Teddy Roosevelt, Raquel Welch and John Wayne. It’s open every day but Thanksgiving and Christmas beginning at 9:30 a.m. until the bartender decides it’s time to close.

• Barry Ginter is editor of the Appeal. Contact him at 881-1221 or bginter@nevadaappeal.com.

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