Thursday, April 10, 2003
Westports Iraq Connections
If you think Westport doesnҒt have close connections to the war in Iraq, think again. Consider:
—The states first casualty in the war was the stepson-in-law of the president of the townҒs volunteer ambulance corps. His widow is a Staples grad.
—A Westport firefighter is among those called to active duty in the days leading up to the fighting in Iraq. Hes helping protect our homeland in the Coast Guard.
—Today’s Westport Minuteman identified at least three servicemen serving in or near Iraq with Westport connections.
—WestportҒs Save the Children is one of the first charities heading into Iraq to assess the humanitarian needs.
—One of the U.N. weapons inspectors who headed out of Iraq before the war began is a Westport resident.
—With all the media types in town, undoubtedly there are several whose waking hours in recent weeks have been consumed with news coverage of Iraq. (I was one of them in 1991 when I helped coordinate planning for CBS News coverage of the Gulf War.)
One of the Westporters on active duty in Iraq is Marine Cpl. Todd Austin, 22, a 1999 Staples grad. His mother, Nancy Austin, told the Minuteman:
“What I want the town of Westport to know is that Todd is there, representing our town no matter what their political bent is, and when my son comes home, I want everyone to shake his hand and say ‘thank you.’
“I saw what the guys went through when they came home from Vietnam and came into a society where they were spat on, and not greeted with open arms.
So whether you think it is a just war or not, these men and women are out there doing what they signed up to do. I want everyone to walk up to him and say ‘thank you.’”
There are past connections to Iraq as well. Back in the 1960s, Westport hosted an Iraqi official who spent several weeks studying town government. Before he left, he proclaimed his admiration for how well we did things then. I remember because I recently came across an interview I did with him for the Town Crier newspaper.
Finally, the townӒs voter list includes one person who lists her birthplace as Iraq. How many other Westporters have Iraq connections I can only guess. It may seem far away. But it isnt.