5-year-old girl to join West Sacramento’s Cub Scout Pack 49

5-year-old girl to join West Sacramento’s Cub Scout Pack 49

By Lance Armstrong On the heels of the announcement from the Boy Scouts of America that girls can now join the ranks with the boys, West Sacramento’s cub scout pack is welcoming More »

Sacramento Harvest Festival features plethora of local artists and craftspeople

Sacramento Harvest Festival features plethora of local artists and craftspeople

West Sacramento henna artist Renu Lal to offer “Prayers You Wear” at local festival The Harvest Festival is known as the largest indoor arts and crafts show on the West Coast, showcasing More »

Elementary Students Plan, Pack, and Protect as Part of California Flood Preparedness Week

Elementary Students Plan, Pack, and Protect as Part of California Flood Preparedness Week

By Monica Stark “Plan, pack, protect. Plan, pack, protect.” Repeating the chant third graders at Stonegate Elementary School demonstrated their knowledge of flood preparedness in front of city officials, members of the More »


You Are Not Forgotten

By Michele Townsend

“YOU ARE NOT FORGOTTEN” are the words that are carved into Lt Gregory Hodson’s paving stone, that is located in the All Veterans Memorial section of Capitol Park.This section is a tribute to all veterans. This statement couldn’t be more fitting, or accurate. Gregory Keith Hodson grew up in West Sacramento, along with his three best friends. In 1961 the four of them graduated from James Marshall High School in West Sac. They had all four joined the military, but each in a different branch. The Vietnam War was going on, and Greg had become a US Navy Pilot. On October 2nd 1964, Greg along with Lt Harold S Roach Jr, from Coronado Ca., and Horace E Rainey – AT3 (Aviation Technician) were returning to the USS Kearsarge, a seventh fleet anti-submarine carrier (after a “routine training mission”…over the war zone). The ship was located in the South China Sea just outside of the war zone. There were high, rough seas that were rocking the ship violently. Greg came in for the first attempt of landing the S-F2 Tracker Plane that he was flying but the rocking of the ship was too severe. He made a second attempt, but still no luck. On the third attempt they thought he had it, but the movement was too severe and the plane fell off of the bow, plunging 700 yards into the sea below. All three members of the crew perished, and their bodies were never found.
In approximately 1998, Greg’s childhood friend, Bill Spurgin, went to the California Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall, in Ca State Capitol Park, and discovered that his good friend, and fellow Vet was not listed on the wall of the 5,622 Ca Service Members! He didn’t understand how such a major mistake could have been made, and he set his mind to rectifying it. He later found out that a family friend of Lt. Roach’s had visited the Memorial Wall, in Washington D.C, and the three crew members were not listed among the 58,286 American names at that site either. Nor were they listed in the Department of Defense’s (DOD) list of soldiers killed in action! How could this be!? They were, however, listed in the USS Kearsarge’s “Yearbook”. Bill spent many frustrating and emotional years digging into why this crew was excluded from the memorials. The DOD said that they “were not a casualty of war because they were killed outside of the war zone”. The ship was a carrier, and just outside Vietnamese waters, but the planes were flying missions in the war zone!
The fight to add veteran’s that died combat related deaths began. As you can imagine, there has been TONS of paperwork that went to the DOD, and to the Legislature. Bill enlisted the help of CalVets to help change this injustice. Together, they filed form after form trying to make changes, to include combat related deaths. They wanted to include not only those that died in the line of duty, but also those that die later due to Agent Orange. In 1982 the Memorial began to recognize combat related deaths, but specifically exclude PTSD related suicides, and deaths due to health issues from Agent Orange exposure. Not everyone agreed with this addition. Zach Earp, former President of Vietnam Veterans of America (who has since passed from health issues that were a direct result from Agent Orange), declared that “The Memorial is very sacred ground. The original intent was to honor those killed in action. In some way, it lessens the integrity of the memorial”.
It took more than 10 years for Bill to get approval to add a stepping stone in his good friend’s name to the walkway in Capitol Park. In 2011, Bill and his brother John (who is also a US Army Vietnam Vet) split the $500 cost of the stepping stone that would honor his friend. The stone read “Lt. Gregory Keith Hodson, United States Navy, You are not forgotten, South China Sea, Oct 2, 1964” But Bill didn’t stop there! With the help and support of many, including West Sac VFW 8720, Senator Lois Wolk, Senator Vic Fazio, CalVets, and Mike Mcgowan, just to name a few…the Calif. Department of Veteran Affairs enacted a law that requires Ca to add names to the memorial every year until 2020, to include current wars.
While Bill has been working on this “mission”, he tried to find and contact the families of the other two crew members aboard that plane, but to no avail. However, CalVet was able to track down the family of Lt. Roach. It was a good thing that they did, because on Memorial Day 2017, Bill FINALLY gets to see the black granite panel where his good friend gets the honor and recognition that he deserves. Lt Roach will also be added to the memorial wall, and his family is expected to attend. They are all are excited and anxious to meet. Horace Rainey will not be added however, because he is not a California Vet. You never really forget your childhood best friends, but Bill Spurgin has truly honored what those friendships mean.

Mill Street Pier Opens In Bridge District

City officials gathered for the grand opening for the $1.3 million rehabilitated Mill Street Pier. It is the latest amenity in the emerging Bridge District. Pier sits 25 feet over the Sacramento River providing breathtaking views of the water, downtown Sacramento, and the nearby Barn entertainment hub.

Mayor Pro Tem Mark Johannessen, City Manager Martin Tuttle, Julie Alvis, Deputy Assistant Secretary for the California Natural Resources Agency gathered as the West Sacramento Fireboat “Boat 41” put on water spray show on the river in West Sacramento’s Bridge District, just steps south of the Barn.

West Sacramento Deputy Fire Chief hopes to inspire more diverse fire crews as she takes over as Fire Chief in Woodland

By Daniel Wilson

Early in her career, West Sacramento Deputy Fire Chief Rebecca Ramirez, who will take over as the first female fire chief for the Woodland Fire Department on Feb. 27, said she received a compliment that embodied what she and most women desire in their careers.

It came in the form of overhearing an “old timer” on the phone telling someone that she was a woman but that he just considered her a part of the crew.

“That, to me, had always stood out as all I ever wanted,” Ramirez said. “Don’t look at me for my gender or the color of my skin or the way I speak; Look at me as what I can contribute to the organization.”

Ramirez said she has never felt discriminated against as a woman in firefighting. By working as hard as possible and being as selfless and respectable as possible, she feels she’s been able to overcome any barriers she has faced.

“I am glad to be representing women in leadership roles, particularly in roles that are not so typical, [like] the fire service,” said Ramirez, who started her tenure with the West Sacramento Fire Department in 1993. “I think we have struggled in getting women into the fire service as a whole and we need to work on that a little bit. Maybe for people seeing me in that role, some young girls…will realize that fire service is a true opportunity for them.”

Battalion Chief Steve Binns, who’s worked for the West Sacramento Fire Department since 1990, will be replacing Ramirez as deputy fire chief.

As battalion chief, Binns is responsible for working hands-on with the fire crew and running day-to-day operations for the department. In his new role, he’ll work closely with the fire chief to balance budgets, implement new programs and processes and run current programs like consortium training sessions, where all of the county’s fire departments learn to cooperate in preparation for large-scale emergencies.

“It’s just more broad-based, more higher-level looking at things,” Binns said. “I’ve always kind of operated on today and at this [new] level, [I’ll] need to operate more about tomorrow.”

Ramirez said the fire department works diligently to help prepare its staff for the job above them in the case of promotion, so Binns already has some experience with some of the duties of his new role.

“We’re going to definitely miss her,” Binns said. “We’re on a steep learning curve over the next two or three weeks, [but] she’s still going to be in the county, so we’re going to talk often, I’m sure.”

Some of Ramirez’s contributions to the West Sacramento Fire Department will have a long-lasting impact on the city.

In recent years, she was directly involved with improving the city’s Insurances Services Office rating, which ranks the department on its abilities to provide fire protection services and sets insurance rates for city residents and businesses based on the ranking.

She also worked to secure a $1.2 million grant in May to purchase Self-Contained Breathing Apparatuses, which are worn on the backs of firefighters and provide them with breathable air while inside a burning building, for the department’s firetrucks.

“She has been an amazing person to work with,” said West Sacramento Fire Chief John Heilmann. “I think I’ve learned more from her than she’s probably learned from me.”

Ramirez’s new role is part of a restructuring of Woodland’s fire and police departments, which are both currently led by Public Safety Chief Dan Bellini.

With the announcement of his retirement, the city decided Bellini’s position should be eliminated in favor of a more traditional set up, according to a Feb. 2 press release from the city of Woodland. The fire and police chief positions were previously combined following cutbacks as a result of the 2008 economic downturn.

“I think it’s good for the county and good for the fire department,” Heilmann said. “I think everyone will benefit in the end.”

Ramirez found out about her new position in early February.

“It was very exciting to find out about it and I was a little overwhelmed by it,” Ramirez said. “The support and the encouragement that I’ve received from the city of West Sacramento has been just truly amazing.”

West Sacramento City Manager Martin Tuttle said he is confident in Ramirez’s future in Woodland and is proud of the legacy she’ll leave behind in West Sacramento.

“Chief Ramirez is a pioneer in fire service and a great role model for women who are pursuing a career in fire,” Tuttle said. “She’s done a great job for us. Her appointment of Woodland expands West Sacramento’s fire department. That’s good, I think in terms of cooperation with other departments.”

Though it will take a while to assess where improvements need to be made and how to approach them, Ramirez said the crew at the Woodland Fire Department will help make the transition a smooth one.

“They’re a very dedicated group, who’s committed both organizationally and on an individual level to the citizens,” Ramirez said. “Their culture is solid, their firefighting skills are solid and the city philosophy is very supportive of the fire department.”

Tuttle said he thinks the West Sacramento Fire Department’s deputy fire chief role is being left in good hands with Binns.

“He’s outstanding,” Tuttle said. “The department won’t miss a beat. We’re going to miss Ramirez, but to her credit, there’s a lot of folks who can step into leadership positions.”

A Day in the Life of A Palestinian Immigrant

By Stacy Grow

A stay-at-home mother of three children, West Sacramento resident Nasreen F.’s life is currently filled with caring for her children and home.
Born and raised near Jerusalem in a tight-knit community in Palestine, Nasreen exudes warmth and joy as she remembers her life back home. “Everyone knew everyone else. You might think of us as a third world country, but we had so much fun!” Every day, her family typically received 7-9 visitors at their home, a constant stream of camaraderie.
Once, her family’s apartment complex was on lockdown for several weeks due to the Israeli occupation. Neighbors pulled chairs into a shared courtyard; cards and other games were played; food, favors, and necessary supplies were exchanged freely between households. This strong sense of community and interconnectedness are the things she now misses most.
Her life changed forever when she was 23. She had her Business Degree and was working at a bank at the time. An acquaintance from the neighborhood grocery store set her up with a Palestinian man who had settled in America, but returned to his homeland to look for a bride. After their first encounter in front of Nasreen’s parents and 4 siblings, the couple got to know each other through a supervised courtship. She soon decided that “he was a good man,” and 4 months later, they were married.
When she joined him in America, she didn’t know much English and how to drive a car. She was greeted with a large, empty house and no friends or direct relatives. For several years, she toggled back and forth between Palestine and Sacramento, uncertain where she wanted to permanently settle.
Eventually, she learned English and how to drive, and decided that she wanted to raise her family in America. She cites the opportunity for upwards career mobility here and the difficulty and dangers of living under occupation. Back in Palestine, life was constantly disrupted by locked checkpoints and violence.
Now, she keeps in touch with her family every day with Facetime and WhatsApp. She stays in touch with her culture by preparing the Palestinian foods she loves, such as maqlobh, a layered dish of cauliflower, eggplant, meat, and rice.
Still, being a Muslim mother in America carries a degree of fear. She brings her 5-year-old son to the Masjid Annur Islamic Center in Sacramento for Sunday school every week, but chooses to walk around and wait 4 hours rather than leave him here unattended. Her worries are twofold: that a “crazy white man” will attack the mosque, or that a “crazy Muslim extremist” might do the same. Indeed, just six months ago, a Muslim man was killed in front this mosque after attending Friday night prayer services.
If there was one thing she would tell Americans about Muslims, she says it would be this: “We are all humans in the same community, which we need to build together and not destroy. What hurts one hurts all.”