Jim Jones: Let’s join together as one to remember and honor our war dead

Jim Jones: Let’s join together as one to remember and honor our war dead

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Normandy American Cemetery

A photo from the Normandy American Cemetery.

As I was growing up in the years following America’s victory in the Second World War, I remember being so proud of the country and those who had served and given their lives to win the war. The country had come together as one to accomplish something truly remarkable. Americans of every national origin, faith and creed played a part in the war, although the participation of some—African Americans and Japanese Americans— had been in separate units. Nevertheless, the war dead were honored and mourned by a united, thankful nation.

The outcomes of the significant wars since that time—Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan—were nowhere near as satisfying. It was not because the troops who fought and died for the country were any less patriotic or dedicated to serving their fellow Americans than those in WW2. The problem was generally of a political or leadership nature—involvement in unwinnable or unnecessary conflicts, strategy blunders and the like.

Korea ended in a stalemate that continues today. We lost in Vietnam. It is hard to see what was gained in Iraq besides making Iran a stronger adversary. Afghanistan is headed toward a bad ending. Regardless of those sad outcomes, the lives of the U.S. men and women who gave their all for their country were just as precious as the war dead of any successful conflict. Their deaths were just as tragic. We, as a united nation, should thank and mourn them on Memorial Day and every other day of the year.

I still fill with anger and grief when I think of my 58,220 Brothers and Sisters who died in the Vietnam War. Every time I think of Jimmy Nakayama of Rigby being incinerated by an errant napalm canister in the Ia Drang Valley in 1965, it brings tears to my eyes. I welcomed 2d Lt. Herbert George Lucas to my battalion in August 1968 and signed the papers sending him home in a body bag twelve days later. He died among Brothers who knew little about him.

Regardless of our opinion about the wisdom of a particular conflict, there should be no equivocation about our attitude toward those who honorably served in it. Those who died fighting for the country in any conflict deserve our respect and appreciation.

Although it is not an armed conflict, we ought to also find a place in our hearts this Memorial Day to remember and honor those who have died at the forefront of the struggle against the novel coronavirus. It has been appropriately described as a war by leaders on both sides of the political aisle. So far, it has claimed close to 100,000 American lives.

The doctors, nurses, first responders, hospital workers and others who have died while tending the afflicted are entitled to the thanks of their country. Those who have become infected and died while serving us behind a grocery store counter, or harvesting produce, or breaking carcasses in a packing plant, or delivering food, or driving a bus, or the many other unsung jobs that have helped the nation through the beginning stage of the pandemic, deserve to be thanked and remembered as we observe Memorial Day 2020. Nor should we forget those who have succumbed to this new threat. They should receive the last respects of their fellow Americans.

Above all, we should share our remembrance as a unified country. After all, we are the “United” States of America. We are at our very best when we act together.

Jones is an Eden native and former Idaho Attorney General and former Idaho Supreme Court Chief Justice. His previous opinion work can be found at JJCommontater.com.


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A small outbreak of coronavirus at a Fry Foods plant in Weiser gives a prime example of the importance of testing for COVID-19. More than that, it represents a warning shot across the bow of potential pitfalls if we don’t reopen our economy the right way.

As we tiptoe through Stage 2 of Gov. Brad Little’s phased reopening plan and approach a more robust Stage 3, it’s going to become even more important that we take the necessary steps to prevent future outbreaks.

And there will be future outbreaks.

The fact remains that the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 is still out there. It’s ready to strike again, and without a vaccine, it remains a potentially destructive and fatal disease.

Aggressive and quick testing remains one of the key elements — perhaps the most important element — of controlling outbreaks at this point.

Fry Foods offers an early case study.

The Weiser food processing plant employs 260 people to make onion rings and other food products. It shut down earlier this month when at least seven employees tested positive for the coronavirus.

Fry Foods initially didn’t test all 260 employees at the Weiser facility — only the 50 or 60 who likely came in contact with the employees who tested positive. Other employees were able to get tested on their own.

The Idaho Bureau of Laboratories (state run-laboratories) tested all that they had the capacity to do in one day, according to Kelly Petroff, director of communications for the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare. The state lab can do about has a testing capacity of approximately 200 tests per day.

“We are not prepared to handle this,” Doug Wold, human resources manager for Fry Foods, told the Idaho Statesman, referring to the lack of coordinated response. “If you don’t have an employer who’s willing to be proactive, we’re just going to fail.”

Fortunately, Crush the Curve Idaho, a private, business-led initiative established during the outbreak to increase testing, stepped in and tested every employee at Fry Foods.

By Tuesday of this week, 20 employees — about 8% of the plant’s workforce — had tested positive for the coronavirus, along with at least two of their family members. Nearly all were asymptomatic.


That’s what needs to happen: rapid-response testing. If you have an outbreak at your workplace, get everyone tested. For those who test positive, keep them home and isolated. For those who test negative, they can keep on working and you’re back in business.

When the outbreak hit Fry Foods, company officials made the decision to shut the plant down.

Without adequate testing, that’s unfortunately the right thing to do. Without testing, you have no idea whether you have seven infected employees, 70 or 270.

We applaud Fry Foods company officials for making the tough call to shut down, even though they were given the green light by the Southwest District Health Department to resume operations.

Coronavirus is stealthy. A person can carry coronavirus longer without symptoms, potentially spreading to others unwittingly. Some people who carry coronavirus have no symptoms at all.

We are encouraged that Crush the Curve Idaho stepped up and stepped in here.

But Idaho needs a more concerted and organized plan to do rapid-response testing.

We are a fragmented health system. Health providers include Saint Alphonsus, St. Luke’s, Primary Health, Saltzer, among others. Then think about all the entities who pay for health care: Blue Cross of Idaho, Regence BlueShield, PacificSource, SelectHealth, etc. Throw in Medicare, Medicaid and those who are uninsured.

Even our own government health management system is fragmented, with the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare and seven independent health districts not operated by the state.

And, in the case of Fry Foods, situated in a city bordering Oregon, workers were from two states.


No wonder Fry Foods officials were at a loss for where to turn for help. Without some sort of coordinated effort to test all employees and somehow pay for those tests, shutting down the plant was the best option.

It’s worth noting that the Fry Foods employee who initially had coronavirus was at a family gathering of a larger number than outlined in the governor’s reopening plan and was with visitors from out of state, two violations of the governor’s guidelines. That’s why we have the guidelines, and that’s why it’s important to follow the guidelines. Otherwise, this is what you get: an outbreak that shuts down an entire food manufacturing plant.

Unfortunately, shutting down operations every time there’s an outbreak is not going to get the job done.

And there will be more outbreaks as we reopen our economy, reopen factories and workplaces.

Idaho has a lot to be optimistic about, and we have a golden opportunity to lead the nation in reopening our economy in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. We have had relatively few cases (around 2,300) and few deaths (77). Our early efforts to shut down parts of our social interactions and Little’s quick call to issue a statewide stay-home order clearly have paid off. Idahoans’ adherence to the stay-home order has helped to flatten the curve and control the number of new cases. Residents and businesses, alike, have done their part to make this happen.

Our hope is that Idaho can chug along through the stages of reopening. Our fear is that if we don’t do this the right way, we’ll have a surge and we’ll be back to a statewide stay-home order. Nobody wants that.

Idaho’s structure of electing governors and LG’s completely separately — different from many states which bind them together — allows for the office holders to come from different points of view.

For future historians and artists who'll chronicle today's health and economic crisis, one humble item will stand out as the chief cultural emblem of the times: wearing a mask. Or not.

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