County families with connection to war in Iraq react to its end

  • By Gale Fiege and Julie Muhlstein Herald Writers
  • Saturday, October 22, 2011 12:01am
  • Local News

EVERETT — The war in Iraq touched many lives in Snohomish County. Some served there, some died there. The announcement Friday that the president is ordering all troops home was met with varying reactions.

Many welcomed the news.

Dedi Noble did not.

“The first thing I thought

was that this is so not over. My fear is that we’re going to leave, not only jeopardizing the people of Iraq, but that we will end up right back there and jeopardize our troops again as well,” said Noble, who lives on Camano Island and works at the Everett Fire Department. “Time will tell. I hope I’m wrong, because there’s nothing more I would like to see than this war over and all our troops home.

“It needs to end the right way for us and for them, however.”

Noble is mother of Army Sgt. Charles E. Matheny IV, who was killed as he rode in unarmored vehicle that hit a roadside bomb near Sadr City in 2006. Matheny, a 2000 graduate of Arlington High School, was 23 years old and Noble’s only child.

“Of course, I thought about Charlie this morning. I don’t want his death to be for nothing,” Noble said. “You just steel yourself when these things come along, the anniversaries and the news. There’s no use to dwell on it. It doesn’t change a thing. It just hurts.”

For Gene Fosheim of Everett, the year his son Tyler served in Iraq was the most difficult time of the father’s life. His son continues to serve in the Army.

“I am happy to see us get out of there,” Fosheim said. “And I am happy my son won’t have to go back to Iraq. When he and the others from the Fort Lewis Stryker Brigade came home, all I could think about was how young they all were and how many of them had children of their own. Tyler’s oldest daughter was born while he was over there.”

Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyler Fosheim, a 2000 graduate of Cascade High School, now works as an Army Ranger trainer at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida. He served in Iraq in 2003 and ’04 and in Afghanistan in 2009 and ’10.

“I believe our mission in Iraq is accomplished. I think they have a strong government now and security is improving,” Tyler Fosheim said.

Hayat Al-Zohairy, 42, was thrilled by news Friday. When she came to the United States in 1994, her family faced dangers in their native Iraq because of their opposition to Saddam Hussein.

A para-educator, the Everett woman recently was back in southern Iraq to visit family. The country is now so stable that her sister, who had moved to Everett, has returned to Iraq to teach school.

“When I went there I saw lots of change,” Al-Zohairy said. She said people in Iraq can now buy products, including cellphones and other technology, never before available. “The country is being rebuilt, step by step,” she said.

While many in Iraq and around the world have mistrusted the United States and viewed the American military as an occupier, she said, “this shows that America came to help, not to occupy.”

“It gives a good picture of the U.S.A. in the world, that what she promises she will do,” Al-Zohairy said.

American forces helped “build a good Iraqi army,” Al-Zohairy said, adding those who have resisted the new Iraqi government no longer have “the excuse” of American forces to commit violence.

For a mother whose Marine Corps son died in Iraq, Friday was a day to reflect on service and sacrifice.

“I feel at peace with this decision,” Myra Rintamaki said of the withdrawal announcement. Her 21-year-old son, Marine Cpl. Steven Rintamaki, was killed in Iraq’s Anbar province in 2004.

“As a mother who lost a child in war, I don’t want that loss of life to be in vain,” the Lynnwood woman said Friday. “I’m very hopeful that the political change there will be beneficial to the Iraqi people and for us Westerners. It’s important not to let down our guard, but this may be closing a chapter of the war on terror, by moving out of Iraq.”

Rintamaki plans to spend Veterans Day at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. “It’s a way to honor the fallen,” she said.

U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Wash., who serves on the House Armed Services Committee, said he’s glad the president will abide by the timeline agreed upon by former President George W. Bush and Iraqi leaders.

“After nine years and a trillion U.S. taxpayer dollars, it is time for our troops to come home,” Larsen said. “I have said the Iraqi government must prepare to stand on its own. It is clearly time for them to do it.”

Everett’s George Secor, whose son and granddaughter were deployed to Iraq, is both proud of their service and glad the war is over.

His son, Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Richard Secor, was deployed twice to Iraq and now works at the Pentagon. Richard Secor’s daughter, Capt. Jessica Secor, is an Army surgical trauma nurse who may be sent to Afghanistan.

“We’re pleased to have them out of Iraq and in a safe zone,” said George Secor, a Navy veteran. “Like any military person, I think we have a job to do. A military person may not agree with everything they do, but they still go.”

Reporter Jerry Cornfield contributed to this story.

Gale Fiege: 425-339-3427;

More than 20 people with connections to Snohomish and Island counties have died in combat or training operations since the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan started.

They include:

U.S. Air Force Maj. Philip Ambard, 44, who lived in Edmonds as a teenager, was one of nine people killed in a mass shooting by a veteran Afghan military pilot at the Kabul airport in Afghanistan on April 27, 2011.

Army Maj. Robert D. Lindenau, 39, with family on Camano Island, died Oct. 20, 2008, when a rocket-propelled grenade hit his vehicle in Charbagh, Afghanistan. He was serving there as a member of the 91st Civil Affairs Battalion from Fort Bragg, N.C.

Marine Corps reservist Lance Cpl. Dustin L. Canham, 21, of Lake Stevens died March 22, 2008, in what the military has described as a “nonhostile incident” in the eastern African nation of Djibouti. He was assigned to Marine Forces Reserve’s 6th Engineer Support Battalion, 4th Marine Logistics Group based in Portland, Ore.

Army Sgt. Phillip R. Anderson, 28, who once lived in Everett, died March 10, 2008, when the vehicle he was in was hit by a roadside bomb in Balad Ruz, Iraq. He was a member of the 2nd Squadron, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment based at Fort Hood, Texas.

Army Spc. Vincent G. Kamka, 23, died Oct. 4, 2007, in Bayji; his death is under investigation. He listed his hometown as Everett but grew up in Idaho Falls, Idaho. He was a member of the 82nd Airborne Division stationed at Fort Bragg, N.C.

Army Pvt. Michael A. Baloga, 21, of Everett died July 26, 2007, in Muqdadiyah of wounds suffered from an improvised explosive device.

Two Whidbey Island Naval Air Station sailors died July 17, 2007, during combat operations in Salah Ad Din province. They are Navy Chief Petty Officer Patrick L. Wade, 38, of Key West, Fla., and Navy Petty Officer First Class Jeffrey L. Chaney, 35, of Omaha, Neb. They were assigned to Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 11.

Marine Lance Cpl. Shawn V. Starkovich, 20, of Arlington died July 16, 2007, in a noncombat incident in Anbar province.

Three Whidbey Island Naval Air Station sailors died April 6, 2007, when a rocket was fired at their vehicle. They are Navy Chief Petty Officer Gregory J. Billiter, 36; Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Adam McSween, 26; and Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Curtis Hall, 24. They were all members of Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 11.

Marine Maj. Megan M. McClung, 34, of Coupeville died Dec. 6, 2006, while supporting combat operations in Anbar province.

Army Spc. Jordan W. Hess, 26, of Marysville died Dec. 5, 2006, at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas, after being wounded Nov. 11, 2006, when a roadside bomb exploded near his combat patrol in Ta’Meem.

Army Sgt. Charles Matheny IV, 23, of Arlington died Feb. 18, 2006, in Baghdad after an explosive detonated near his vehicle.

Marine Cpl. Jeffrey B. Starr, 22, of Snohomish died May 30, 2005, in combat operations in Ramadi.

Marine machine gunner Pfc. Cody Calavan, 19, of Lake Stevens was killed May 29, 2004, in a car bombing in Anbar province.

Marine Cpl. Steven A. Rintamaki, 21, of Lynnwood died Sept. 16, 2004, in action in Anbar province.

Mariner High School graduate Todd Drobnick, 35, a civilian translator for San Diego defense contractor Titan Corp., Nov. 23, 2003, in Mosul in a petroleum truck collision.

Army paratrooper Spc. Justin W. Hebert, 20, of Silvana died Aug. 1, 2003, when a rocket-propelled grenade hit the Humvee he was driving near Baghdad. He was the first from Snohomish County to be killed and the 254th American to die in Iraq.

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